A Year Since Disclosure Law, Fracking Fluid Remains a Mystery
A year ago, a Texas law was supposed to bring the raw ingredients used in hydraulic fracturing out of the shadows and into the sunlight. The process, which involves blasting millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into shale formations a mile below the surface, isn't subject to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, which seems bizarre to some enviros because the identity of those chemicals, along with how they interact with one another and whether they contact groundwater, is only dimly understood.
Unfortunately, the Texas law requiring the disclosure of frack fluid constituents has proven as porous as Swiss cheese. The industry is allowed to claim exemptions to the law when it concerns chemicals they say form a proprietary blend.
In fact, according to numbers compiled by PIVOT Upstream Group, frackers invoked trade-secret exemptions more than 10,000 times during nearly 12,500 frack jobs reported last year to FracFocus, the clearinghouse for such data. Which raised the questions: Does a half-assed disclosure really qualify as a disclosure? And: Why bother?
The industry would counter: Why bother innovating effective new mixtures when the work product is on the Internet for free? It's debatable how much of an edge any particular cocktail gives a business whose backbone is relies on snapping up leases over productive zones, but it's a discussion that needs to be had. And it's on equal footing with the fear of exposure to the unknown in areas with intense drilling.
Just don't expect that discussion to take place in the Texas Legislature. As the San Antonio Express-News reports, there ain't much on the agenda.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.