Industry attacks leaked draft of fracking fluid rule

The oil-and-gas industry is attacking a leaked draft of long-awaited government rules that would require companies to disclose the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing on federal lands.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management has drafted a rule that would require companies to reveal the trade names and purposes of fracturing fluid additives and to name the specific chemicals involved and the volumes they plan to use. The rule also contains a trade-secret exemption if companies can show that state or federal laws and regulations protect the information from public disclosure.

Environmental advocates have raised concerns that harmful chemicals including known carcinogens go into fluids used in hydraulic fracturing, in which mixtures of water, sand and chemicals are injected underground at high pressures to break up rock that holds oil and gas. Environmentalists and industry representatives disagree on whether the fluids can contaminate water supplies.

Some environmentalists called the BLM draft rule a good start but said they hoped the trade secrets exemption won’t be applied too liberally. Industry complained that the rule duplicated what states already do.

The draft rules, obtained by the Houston Chronicle and confirmed by the Interior Department, must undergo public comment once they’re proposed, and their provisions could change before becoming final. Long in the works, the rules would come as part of what President Obama has said is the need to develop domestic energy resources “without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.”

Also under the draft rules, before starting to fracture a well, operators would have to perform tests to show it’s built strongly enough to withstand maximum operating pressures. And they would have to disclose where they get their fracturing water from and how they would dispose of the wastewater that resurfaces.

The rules would create a “redundant layer of requirements” because states have laws and rules that already apply to companies operating on federal lands within their boundaries, said Kathleen Sgamma with the Western Energy Alliance, a Denver-based industry group. She questioned why the department was writing the rules before the Environmental Protection Agency completes a study of how fracturing affects water.

Adam Fetcher, an Interior spokesman, defended the impetus for the rules.

“It is essential that the public have full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place,” he said in a statement.

Some states such as Texas already require disclosure of chemicals in fracturing fluids, and more are mulling it, industry representatives said.

They also pointed to FracFocus.org, a chemical registry website launched by state regulators. Industry is trying to increase voluntary participation in the site, Sgamma said.

“The federal government does not need to create a new, additional disclosure process when one that works is already in place,” Jeff Eshelman, spokesman for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, an industry group, said in an email. The group is still studying the rule’s well-integrity and wastewater provisions, he said.

Texas state Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, chairman of the state House Energy Resources Committee, said he hadn’t seen the draft rule. Keffer is the architect of his state’s new law requiring disclosure on FracFocus.org but allowing a limited trade-secret exemption.

“But I hope they look at the work that is already being done by states … and will not try to reinvent the wheel,” he said.

Matt Watson, senior energy policy manager for the Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental group, said some states’ disclosure requirements are weaker than the BLM draft rule.

He said the Interior Department “did a good job of studying the experience of the states and capturing the lessons learned there.”

But in any BLM rule with a trade-secret exemption, “mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure trade-secret protections are narrowly applied and strictly enforced,” Watson said.

6 Comments

  1. Nawar

    The solution for fraccing pollution is waterless fraccing; Gasfrac has done over a 1000 fracs with gelled propane; you don’t need any water; you don’t produce any waste fluids (no need for injection wells); no need to flare (no CO2 emissions)­; truck traffic is cut to a trickle from 900 trips per well for water fraccing to 30 with propane fracs; and on top of that the process increases oil and gas production­; it is a win for the industry, a win for the community and a win for the environmen­t.

    #1
  2. JonC

    Puneet,

    Where is the “attack” that you mention in the headline?

    #2
  3. Puneet Kollipara

    JonC:

    See the following paragraphs. This is where industry representative have expressed their criticism of the draft rules:

    ——–

    The rules would create a “redundant layer of requirements” because states have laws and rules that already apply to companies operating on federal lands within their boundaries, said Kathleen Sgamma with the Western Energy Alliance, a Denver-based industry group. She questioned why the department was writing the rules before the Environmental Protection Agency completes a study of how fracturing affects water.

    Some states such as Texas already require disclosure of chemicals in fracturing fluids, and more are mulling it, industry representatives said.

    They also pointed to FracFocus.org, a chemical registry website launched by state regulators. Industry is trying to increase voluntary participation in the site, Sgamma said.

    “The federal government does not need to create a new, additional disclosure process when one that works is already in place,” Jeff Eshelman, spokesman for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, an industry group, said in an email. The group is still studying the rule’s well-integrity and wastewater provisions, he said.

    #3
  4. Robert F.

    Of course they want states to regulate it.

    State regulators and legislators are easier and cheaper to buy.

    #4
  5. HoganFWTX

    The major draw back of the chemical disclosure is in the propriatory chemical exemption. Without full disclosure of the chemicals used 1) Industry does not or may not have to tell anyone what the most damaging or toxic chemicals they are using and in what quanities because they are declsred proprietory. 2 ) There is no check to see if they are disclosing any trueth and We know they lie as a way of life and culture. One solution would be for them to have to add a know non toxic tracer identification additive. This tracer additive could then be traced back to any well thought to have contaminated either well or underground water resources. The Industry is aware of this simple finger print method but will never agree to such because it would be like placing DNA to a crime scene.

    #5
  6. Jerry Lobdill

    I’m very sorry to report (from Fort Worth, the “sweet spot” of the Barnett Shale) that there is nothing new or more restrictive in this draft fracking fluid rule. I say this as a chemical engineer (retired) who has been studying this technology for 7 years. The industry folks who are “attacking” the proposed rule are like Br’er Rabbit in the Uncle Remus story–”Oh please,Br’er Fox, don’t throw me in that briar patch!”

    We have the very same law in effect today that is proposed in this “new” rule, and industry has hidden all controversial ingredients behind the trade secret rule for as long as I’ve been involved.

    We don’t need “new” rules like this. In fact, more regulatory rules will not solve the problems we have with gas extraction. Industry is irresponsible and reckless and has a long history of polluting everywhere they have drilled for gas or oil. There is a culture of entitlement in the industry that has been ingrained for more than a century. The rules have all been crafted with industry money, and they are now spending incredible sums in lobbying.

    Until we get these companies out of statehouses and Congress we will not have proper attention to public safety and public health.

    #6