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Fracking Chemical Disclosure Bill Blasts Through Texas House, Enviros Unimpressed

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In these final days of the 82nd Texas Legislature, lawmakers in Austin are throwing support behind Eastlake Rep. Jim Keffer's bill that'd require drillers to report the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing at each of their drill sites.

The bill got an overwhelming nod from the House yesterday (and just 12 members voted against it in a record vote this morning). Flower Mound Rep. Tan Parker tacked on an amendment that would require less information on non-regulated chemicals. Companies would also be protected from disclosing "proprietary" chemicals, and it's an open question just what standard would be used to determine what proprietary means and who could challenge those claims. The bill would also exempt drill rigs already in place.

The bill would make Texas one of a very few states to require disclosure of these chemicals, along with Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Colorado.

So, now that it's passed, and with a similar bill from Lewisville Sen. Jane Nelson up before a committee today, the Texas Observer asks the environmentalist community if this bill is even any good. To which Austin-based statewide green groups say, sure, better'n nothing. Local activists here in the Barnett Shale give the bill a resounding "Frack, no."

(Speaking of the frack-sounds-like-the-other-thing gag, "The Fracking Song" has been making the rounds this morning -- well worth a watch, though where edutainment rap is concerned, the bar's already set pretty high.)

Gas drilling activist Sharon Wilson is generally unimpressed with the legislation, especially for protecting "trade secret" chemicals from being disclosed. Dallas activist Raymond Crawford agrees: "HB3328 In Austin is all smoke and mirrors. We need FULL disclosure," he writes today.

Incidentally, you can bet this bill will be a hot topic tonight in Mountain Creek, where a who's-who list of gas drilling activists has teamed up to present a primer on gas drilling concerns at Harmony School of Nature & Athletics. From 7 to 8:30 tonight, Wilson, Crawford, Downwinders At Risk's Jim Schermbeck and more of the usual suspects will be on hand for a "Gas Drilling 101" discussion to tackle the "health, safety and environmental concerns of urban gas drilling."

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