Friday, April 23, 2010

ExxonMobil says to disclose fracking fluids; N.Y. gets strict on NYC watershed, speeding review

The largest oil company has joined the list of those who think it's a good idea to disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. ExxonMobil said in a statement filed last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission that disclosing the chemicals "would ease concerns about potential contamination" from fracking, which involves pumping water, chemicals and sand under high pressure into formations to break up the rock and release natural gas, Katie Burford of The Durango Herald in Colorado reports. Some companies are resisting the push for disclosure because they say it would put them at a competitive disadvantage.

"ExxonMobil supports the disclosure of the identity of the ingredients being used in fracturing fluids at each site," the company said in the statement. "While we understand the intellectual property concerns of service companies when it comes to disclosing the proprietary formulations in their exact amounts, we believe the concerns of community members can be alleviated by the disclosure of all ingredients used in these fluids."

Bruce Baizel, staff attorney for the Durango-based Oil & Gas Accountability Project, told Burford that ExxonMobil's decision was a significant step, and predicted that once chemicals were disclosed, companies would start using greener alternatives. ExxonMobil announced its deal to acquire Texas natural gas company XTO Energy for $31 million in December. The merger reportedly includes an escape clause that would invalidate the deal if fracking is banned or becomes no longer commercially viable, Burford writes. (Read more)

Meanwhile, New York state officials have taken New York City's water-supply zone out of the review process for fracking the Marcellus Shale in that state. "Energy companies will be required to undergo a separate and exhaustive review for each well they propose to drill and hydraulically fracture inside the area, a hurdle that may amount to a de facto ban," Abrahm Lustgarten writes for ProPublica. "But it also removes a significant political and scientific obstacle to completing the two-year statewide review process, paving the way for drilling to proceed across much of the rest of the state as soon as next spring." (Read more)

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