Texas’ fracking disclosure law leaves questions

A report by The Dallas Morning News examines holes in the recently enacted fracking disclosure law that allows companies to avoid detailing the amount of chemicals used, incidental chemicals or trade secrets.

Texas enacted its disclosure law on February 1 that required drilling companies to disclose the chemicals used during the hydraulic fracturing process. However, the law had a few caveats to the disclosure.

According to The News, companies aren’t required to specify the amount of chemicals used on each drill site. The lost detail could mean thousands of pounds of hazardous chemicals could be used in hydraulic fracturing or sitting idle on drilling sites, The News reported.

Overall, more than a billion pounds of chemicals could be pumped underground North Texas to release trapped natural gas and oil. The newspaper calculated the number based on percentage of chemicals on a typical site.

Environmentalists argued those chemicals could have long-term impacts on the environment and health of nearby residents. Industry officials, however, have consistently said the chemicals pose no health or environmental threat.

According to The News, both sides are a bit right.

Nearly all of the chemicals used in the fracking process are benign, but a few – and maybe more undisclosed due to trade secrets – are highly toxic, the newspaper reported.

The report specifically mentions a Schlumberger product called A264, a corrosion inhibitor. Two of the chemicals — methanol and propargyl alcohol — are disclosed, but two other chemicals, which represent 60 percent of the chemical, aren’t disclosed.

A264 is marked as toxic and could have fatal consequences if it is inhaled, swallowed or even comes in contact through the skin.

According to The News, the disclosure law doesn’t give the public or cities enough information to make an accurate assessment. And a slightly harsher conclusion was the law gives the industry, which backed the law, “cover from accusations of secrecy.”

Pennsylvania’s drilling disclosure law, which mirrors laws in Texas and Colorado, is also facing criticism but not for the same issues.

All three legislations require companies to tell doctors the chemical makeup of fracking fluid, including trade secrets, to enable them to better diagnosis patients. But the law doesn’t allow a doctor to share that information with another physician.

The issue prompted a Pennsylvania doctor to file a federal lawsuit against the so-called “gag rule,” according to NPR’s StateImpact.

Nephrologist Alfonso Rodriguez said the law restricts his constitutional rights and could hinder research into the health implications of the chemicals or exposure to them.

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