FracFocus Fails as Fracking Disclosure Tool, Study Finds

FracFocus, the website used by Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and other energy companies to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, fails as a compliance tool for the 11 states that rely on it, a Harvard Law School study found.

Using the voluntary registry for compliance with state disclosure requirements is “misplaced or premature” because of spotty reporting, lack of a searchable database and an “overly broad” allowance for trade secrets, according to the study published today by the Environmental Law Program at Harvard.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management should establish basic requirements for disclosure and penalties should apply for failure to report, according to the study. The online registry was created in April 2011 to keep track of chemicals used in fracking, in which producers shoot a mixture of water, sand and chemicals underground to access oil and natural gas in dense rock formations.

“Any state’s ability to make demands on FracFocus is limited,” Kate Konschnik, Margaret Holden and Alexa Shasteen wrote in the report. “The federal government should step into this void and require minimum standards for the disclosure registry.”

Of the 18 states that require companies to disclose chemicals used in fracking, 11 require or allow the reporting to be on FracFocus. The study cited reporting by Bloomberg News and the New York Times.

FracFocus is operated by two groups: the Ground Water Protection Council, a group of state water officials; and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, an association of states that produce the fuels.

“We believe the research done by the Harvard team fails to reflect the true capabilities of the FracFocus system and misrepresents the system’s relationship to state regulatory programs,” the Ground Water Protection Council said in an e- mailed statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jim Polson in New York at jpolson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan Warren at susanwarren@bloomberg.net

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