Friday, November 30, 2012

Fracking-chemical disclosure laws have loopholes that keep citizens clueless about content

Drill pipes on a rack near Nabors
Industries Ltd. site.(Bloomberg photo)
The people who live in and around rural Karnes County, Texas, have no idea what's in a substance identified as “EXP-F0173-11” that has been pumped into in a half-dozen oil wells there. Now, neither does the state of Texas. Despite the state's year-old law requiring onshore drillers to disclose chemicals they pump underground, Superior Wells Services, the company that manufacturers the mystery substance, considers it a "trade secret" and thus Texas courts are powerless to force Nabors Industries Ltd. to disclose the chemicals that make up the EXP-FO173-11 toxic blend. Reporters for Bloomberg Businessweek write,"This much is clear: One ingredient (in the blend), an unidentified solvent, can cause damage to the kidney and liver, according to safety information about the product that Michigan state regulators have on file."

Nabors, the largest onshore drilling contractor by revenue, is not the only one claiming exemption  from the new Texas law. According to Bloomberg-Businessweek, in this year alone, more than 19,000 such exemptions to the law have been granted. (Data from the documents were compiled by Pivot Upstream Group, a Houston-based firm that studies the energy industry, and analyzed by Bloomberg.)

"Nationwide, companies withheld one out of every five chemicals they used in fracking, a separate examination of a broader database shows," the reporters note. Several other states that require disclosure of hydraulic-fracturing chemicals, including Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico and North Dakota, also leave it up to energy companies to determine what chemicals can be labeled secrets.  (Read more)

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