Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Critics question fracking disclosure rules' effectiveness; latest law to pass is in Texas

Five states now have rules requiring energy companies to disclose some chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas production, but critics and some toxicologists say without full disclosure of all chemicals and the amounts of each chemical, "the requirements fall short of what's needed to fully understand the risks to public health and the environment," reports Nicholas Kusnetz of ProPublica, which has focused much attention on fracking.

"It's a shell game," Theo Colborn, a toxicologist with TEDX, an organization that examines the long-term health risks of chemicals used in drilling, said before Congress. "They're not telling you everything that there is to know."

Most regulations allow proprietary chemicals to remain secret from the public and, in some states, from regulators, Kusnetz reports. Some environmentalists and toxicologists believe these state rules allow "too much discretion," Kusnetz reports. Companies can seek trade-secret protection, and many do. In Wyoming, which currently has the toughest reporting rules, "100 such exemptions have been granted," Tom Doll, Wyoming oil and gas supervisor told ProPublica, "though most of the exempt products haven't been used."

Other critics, like the Sierra Club's Cyrus Reed, supporter of a new fracking-disclosure law in Texas, believe regulators are gradually moving forward. "It's just a step in the process," he told ProPublica, referring to the Texas legislation. (Read more) In July 2012, drillers must "disclose the chemicals they use when extracting oil and gas from rock formations," The Associated Press reports.

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