Wyoming Supreme Court Doubts 'Trade Secret' Loophole on Fracking Disclosure

April 2, 2014

Just claiming something as "confidential business information" is not enough. Wyoming's Supreme Court said the state's drillers, and state regulators, bear the burden of showing why they are withholding disclosure of the often-toxic chemicals pumped underground in fracking operations.

The CBI or "trade secrets" is an exemption used in many states (and federal lands) to prevent the public from knowing about possible risks of hydraulic fracturing — a method used to release gas and oil from tight shale formations. When wells are defective, the concern is that toxic chemicals in fracking fluid could contaminate ground water. Some states' laws require disclosure of fracking fluid ingredients, subject only to a trade secrets exemption. But in many cases, companies claims of trade secrets are neither documented by the companies nor evaluated by regulatory agencies.

In a March 12, 2014, ruling, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled that a regulatory agency, and the district court which upheld its refusal to disclose fracking fluid ingredients, did not have enough information to know whether the identity of those ingredients was actually a legitimate trade secret. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court for reconsideration.