Earlier this week, Texas became the first state to require that drilling companies disclose the chemicals and amounts they use in hydraulic fracturing. It’s a big step, and one the industry should have embraced years ago. Instead, energy companies’ resistance to disclosing the contents of their “fracking” fluids has helped fuel public fears about the safety of extracting natural gas from shale formations.
Not surprisingly, critics have been quick to say that the new disclosure law in Texas, and similar, weaker measures in a few other states, don’t go far enough. Translation: the fight ain’t over.
Oil companies wonder why are have become such convenient villains, especially for environmental groups, but the fracking issue provides an answer. They are so willing to play the role.
As the fracking controversy grew, the industry’s knee-jerk response was to close ranks, to head for the bunker. Companies claimed that the ingredients were some sort of secret recipe, and revealing the contents would be giving away trade secrets. The most closely guarded corporate secret on earth is the formula for Coca-Cola. Yet everyone can lists the contents.
Finally, the industry has decided to get behind the disclosure measures, in hopes of heading off growing public resistance to fracking. At Chesapeake Energy’s annual meeting last month, CEO Aubrey McClendon, told investors: “We have seen the light.”
The question, unasked by investors in attendance, was “what took you so long?”
Now, the public fears surrounding fracking — whether valid, unfounded or somewhere in between — are the driving force behind the issue. How likely are the recent moves by Texas and other states to quell those fears?