Disclosure? BLM Fracking Rule Panned by Industry, Panned by Enviros

June 19, 2013

Remember President Obama's promise that — on federal lands, at least — drillers would have to disclose all the chemicals they used in hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells?

He made it in his 2012 State of the Union speech, saying: "And I'm requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use." Well, in the most recently proposed federal fracking rule, it is pretty easy for drillers to avoid disclosure by claiming those chemicals are trade secrets.

The Interior Department on May 16, 2013, announced its proposed revisions to a fracking rule it had originally proposed back in May 2012. That proposal allowed drillers to avoid disclosing chemicals by claiming trade secrets — and also didn't require disclosure until after wells were completed and the chemicals were in the ground. Interior withdrew it for revision after industry complaints that it was too burdensome.

The new proposal still allows companies to claim trade secrecy on chemicals in fracking fluid. It allows drillers to fulfill disclosure requirements on the remainder by submitting them to FracFocus — a controversial database run by the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Groundwater Protection Council (both NGO associations of state agencies). Environmentalists have complained that the FracFocus database does not allow adequate disclosure. FracFocus was revised in May, though it hasn't yet won much praise from environmentalists.