The Right to Know, the Responsibility to Protect: State Actions Are Inadequate to Ensure Effective Disclosure of the Chemicals Used in Natural Gas FrackingPosted on July 9, 2012
WASHINGTON, July 9, 2012—In a new report issued today, OMB Watch finds that state oversight laws requiring disclosure of the chemicals used in natural gas fracking are in need of an overhaul. Disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is spotty and incomplete, and essential safeguards are missing.
“Public officials in state government are struggling to find a way to protect water supplies and public health in the wake of the rapid expansion of natural gas drilling and extraction. They haven’t gotten it right yet,” said Katherine McFate, president of OMB Watch. “Some of the chemicals used in natural gas fracking have been linked to serious health problems, including cancer and kidney, liver, and neurological damage, so it is imperative that local water supplies be carefully monitored and protected.”
The report, The Right to Know, the Responsibility to Protect: State Actions Are Inadequate to Ensure Effective Disclosure of the Chemicals Used in Natural Gas Fracking, examines state disclosure laws and rules and identifies the gap between effective policy and existing practice. The analysis is especially timely given the ongoing boom in natural gas extraction: almost half a million natural gas wells are operating in at least 30 states, and more are planned.
Do you know how many natural gas wells are operating in your state or near the watershed that supplies your drinking water? You should.
Most of those wells rely on a process known as hydraulic fracturing (or natural gas fracking) that employs toxic chemicals to crack open shale beds and release methane gas. Both the chemicals used in fracking and the methane gas released pose a risk to local water supplies and the health of those who live nearby.
Source: Al Granberg/ProPublica
Community groups, individual citizens, and public officials have a right to know which chemicals are used in the fracking process. This report, The Right to Know, the Responsibility to Protect: State Actions Are Inadequate to Ensure Effective Disclosure of the Chemicals Used in Natural Gas Fracking, lays out what an effective chemical disclosure policy would look like, highlighting four key elements:
Before receiving a drilling permit, the owners and operators of natural gas wells should gather baseline information on nearby water sources and water and air quality. They should disclose the chemicals they intend to use in the fracking process and commit to regularly monitoring the water and air near the gas wells and near wastewater storage facilities for potential contamination for as long as the well is operating and for some period after operations have ceased.
Information on the chemicals used in fracking should be collected from drilling companies, well operators, and manufacturers and should include specific information on the unique chemical identification numbers, concentrations, and the quantity of the chemicals used.
States should have clear guidelines limiting "trade secrets" exemptions from disclosure laws to prevent companies from invoking this loophole to avoid disclosure.
Information about the chemicals used at each individual well where fracking occurs should be posted on a public website in a way that allows users to easily search, sort, and download data by chemicals used, companies involved, and well location.
With the amount of capital and technical expertise that oil and gas companies control, we have a right to demand the highest standards of construction, equipment operations, disclosure, and safety in the pursuit of new energy resources. The responsibility to ensure these standards are met rests with government.
Read the report in medium-resolution PDF format [3 MB]
Read the report in high-resolution PDF format [6 MB]