States Partly Fill Federal Vacuum on Fracking Fluid Disclosure Law

December 14, 2011

Two more states — Colorado and Texas — have stepped in to fill the information vacuum left by Congress' refusal to let the public know what toxic chemicals may be pumped or leaked into drinking wells by "fracking" operations in the current shale gas boom.

Colorado, which adopted its disclosure rules December 13, 2011, joins Texas, Pennsylvania, and several other states in requiring some disclosure by drillers of the chemicals they pump into shale formations under high pressures to release natural gas. Scores of chemicals, some very toxic, may be involved. Environmentalists say none of the state regimes is perfect. Some have a "trade secret" loophole or do not require disclosure of chemical concentrations, as Colorado's does.

Gas drilling companies have resisted regulation for years, arguing that there is no evidence that fracking operations have polluted drinking water wells. That case remains easy to make while companies continue to withhold baseline well data that would allow pollution to be identified.

Colorado's move, though, comes just as the US EPA has finally identified a case in Wyoming where they say such pollution did occur.

Under the "Halliburton loophole" made part of the 2005 federal energy bill, fracking operations were exempted from the disclosure requirements of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.