Friday, July 16, 2010

Another company reveals its 'fracking' recipe, perhaps in effort to head off federal regulation

One of the largest Marcellus Shale natural-gas drilling companies has decided to fully disclose the chemicals it uses in hydraulic fracturing operations. "The company, Range Resources, said it will display the list on its website, giving regulators and landowners an account of the hazardous chemicals injected into each well," Nicholas Kusnetz of ProPublica reports. Deborah Goldberg, an attorney at Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm, said the disclosure could be critical in helping health specialists and regulators determine whether "fracking" is polluting drinking-water supplies. Range's list goes further than a previous one of 80 chemicals used by the drilling industry and released by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection because it includes volume, concentration and purpose of the chemicals. Range was the first company to drill and complete a Marcellus well in Pennsylvania and has leased 1.3 million acres of the shale. (Read more)

The announcement from Texas-based Range, which also is active in the Barnett Shale play in Texas, "reflects the desire of industry to get out ahead of the issue to prevent federal regulation" of fracking, Mike Sorghan of Environment & Energy Daily reports. "At least one other major driller, Chesapeake Energy Corp., says it is considering disclosing chemicals used in fracking on a well-by-well basis, as Range is planning." Environmentalists welcomed the disclosure but still called for added regulation. "One company's efforts at transparency don't substitute for an industry-wide requirement that such substances be disclosed to the public," Dave Alberswerth of the Wilderness Society told Sorghan. "Congress and state legislatures should move forward with requirements that all companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing publicly disclose the chemicals used in this process."

The industry's chief trade association, the American Petroleum Institute, is finalizing its own proposal for disclosure. Fracking operations inject thousands of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into shale formations to create small cracks in the rock releasing otherwise unaccessible gas reserves. API spokeswoman Cathy Landry told Sorghan the four main facets of its disclosure policy will be "no federal regulation," maintaining state regulation, "confidentiality of proprietary information," and transparency (the definition of which can vary). (Read more)

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