Texas drilling regulator: Frac disclosure rules will be ready in 2012

A new law approved by Texas legislators gives regulators until July 2013 to require disclosure of most chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, but one official said he hopes to have it done a year earlier.

Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter said he would push the Railroad Commission – the state’s main drilling regulator – to complete the entire rulemaking process by July 1, 2012.

“In order for Texans to maintain confidence in the oil and gas industry, it is important for us to get this done as quickly as possible,” Porter said in a statement. “We need to assure the public that hydraulic fracturing is safe and responsible – and has been for the past sixty years – and we need to do it now.”

Under existing rules, companies must list just some of the chemicals used in fracturing on Material Safety Data Sheets, documents kept on worksites to help officials respond to emergencies such as spills or accidental exposures to hazardous chemicals. Some chemicals are exempt if the companies claim they are trade secrets, while others simply aren’t covered by the requirements.

In response to public concerns about hazardous chemicals, the industry voluntarily has been sharing fracturing fluid information from the data sheets for specific wells through a website, FracFocus.org.

The new Texas law makes that reporting mandatory for all wells drilled in Texas, and will require listing of chemicals not currently required on the data sheets. But the Railroad Commission had until July 2012 to write the rules for reporting the MSDS data and until July 2013 for the second set of information.

Porter’s pledge is to have all the data posted by July 2012.

The Railroad Commission will begin the rulemaking process at its next open conference this month and will hold open meetings throughout the state in coming months to gather public comment.

Last month Porter said he was working to form an Eagle Ford Shale Task Force to look at a range of issues such as water use.

Earlier this week Texas Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones told a congressional committee that fears of hydraulic fracturing were largely unfounded. It’s more likely that well casing problems or poor cement jobs would to lead to water contamination issues, she said.