Monday, July 30, 2012

NRDC Report Finds that State Disclosure Laws for Fracking Fluids are Inadequate and Poorly Enforced

NRDC recently released a report on state fracking chemical disclosure laws and their enforcement.  The report found that more than half of the states with fracking activity currently have no disclosure requirements at all. Of the state disclosure laws, none require comprehensive disclosure. In those states requiring some degree of disclosure, enforcement was found to be uneven.
NRDC lists the following reasons, among others, why the chemical constituents of fracking fluids should be publicly disclosed.  Disclosure in advance of the fracking would allow neighboring landowners to establish a baseline for the presence or absence of those chemicals in their groundwater. In the event any contamination is detected, disclosure of the contents of the fracking fluid would help determine the source of the contamination. Medical professionals and first responders would have ready access to the information, rather than having to go through the process of attempting to get confidential information from state agencies, if they have it. Finally, if it is true, as the industry claims, that there is little or no risk to the public from fracking fluids, full disclosure would allow open discussion and analysis that may (or may not) confirm their position.
The study found that of the 29 states with fracking activity, only fourteen required some level of public disclosure as of June, 2012.  The states with disclosure requirements in effect as of the time of the study were Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming. In many of those states, the report found that information was difficult to obtain. State disclosure websites were found to be difficult to navigate and individual wells difficult to locate.
The site, touted by some industry spokesmen as the full disclosure center, was found by NRDC to be "severely limited". The disclosure form contained fields for only a limited subset of the information that state disclosure rules required. The site did not contain the full required disclosure for any of the states covered by the site. 
In this report, NRDC considered New York to be a state in which fracking activity is being conducted with no chemical disclosure law in place. This is because the moratorium on fracking only applies to high volume, high pressure hydraulic fracturing. Fracking using less than 300,000 gallons of water has been occurring and continues to be permissible. New York's proposed fracking regulations would allow drillers to claim the constituents of their frack fluids is confidential business information so that public disclosure would not be permitted except in emergency situations.

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