Press release from From Harvard Law School:
NEW STUDY DETAILS SERIOUS FLAWS IN RELIANCE ON WEBSITE USED FOR VOLUNTARY DISCLOSURE OF HYDRAULIC FRACTURING CHEMICALS
Reliance on FracFocus as a Regulatory Compliance Tool Is Misplaced or Premature
April 23, 2013 – A new study by the Harvard Environmental Law Program’s Policy Initiative reveals serious deficiencies in the disclosure practices of FracFocus, a widely-used website that allows companies to voluntarily disclose the hydraulic fracturing chemicals they use in the process of natural gas drilling known as “fracking.”
Currently, 18 states require some amount of fracturing chemicals disclosure. Of those, 11 direct or allow companies to report chemical use on FracFocus. The report found that the dependence on FracFocus as a regulatory compliance tool is misplaced or premature.
The report, titled “Legal Fractures in Chemical Disclosure Laws,” details numerous areas of public disclosure deficiencies from relying on FracFocus. These include:
“In many instances, states have written tough disclosure requirements, backed by robust public information laws,” said Kate Konschnik, Policy Director of the Harvard Environmental Law Program. “However, when those same states direct companies to report to FracFocus, they give up a lot of oversight authority. Meanwhile, the public’s ability to seek additional information or challenge trade secret claims is lost when an agency is not in possession of the disclosures.”
As its name suggests, hydraulic fracturing involves injecting a large volume of fluid (usually water-based) into a well at high pressure, to fracture rock. The practice is used to extract oil and gas from large shale formations across the United States. Chemicals represent a small fraction of the fracturing fluid; however, given that millions of gallons of fracturing fluid may be injected into each well, the fluid may contain thousands of gallons of chemicals.
FracFocus was created two years ago this April in response to public concerns about the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process. Industry worked with the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Groundwater Protection Council to create the voluntary registry. However, FracFocus is not a regulatory body, nor does it verify the information submitted by producers and suppliers.
The report concludes that relying on FracFocus as a de facto regulatory practice is premature and does not serve the interests of the public.
“The reliance by states on FracFocus to provide regulatory accountability is simply misplaced,” said Konschnik. “Until significant changes are made, FracFocus remains little more than a repository for disclosure forms and lacks the necessary technical capacity and regulatory mandate to effectively provide the sort of oversight demanded by most states.”
Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.
Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.
Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.
Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.
No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.
Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.