The U.S. Interior Department’s proposed guidelines for natural gas fracking on public lands don’t specify how drillers will disclose the chemicals they use.
Environmentalists prefer the disclosure to the public be made on the web as well as by certified mail to landowners living within two miles of the fracking, Dusty Horwitt, senior counsel of the Environmental Working Group, said in a telephone interview.
The draft of the measure only says the information “will become a matter of public record.”
“There are some good elements in the rule,” Horwitt said after being shown a draft.
Among his concerns are an exemption from disclosure of trade secrets.
“Our concern is whether the exemption would swallow the rule,” he said.
The Obama administration will require companies operating on public lands, such as Chesapeake Energy Corp., to report a complete makeup of chemicals used in the fluid, and the volume of fluid used. The agency also will require drillers to disclose the source, access route and transport for all water anticipated to be used in the well, according to the draft rule obtained today and confirmed by the Interior Department.
Fracking, a technology that releases gas trapped in shale rock by injecting water, sand and chemicals thousands of feet underground, is used for almost every new natural-gas well drilled on U.S. lands. The Washington-based Environmental Working Group said some of the chemicals already disclosed by the companies are known to cause cancer or reproductive harm.
The energy industry already is disclosing chemicals used under state requirements on websites such as www.fracfocus.org., said Reid Porter, a spokesman for American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade group representing energy companies.
“The federal government should not add bureaucratic layers where disclosure is already occurring,” he said in an e-mail. He declined to comment on the details of the rule before it’s officially published.
Some states, such as Wyoming and Texas, also require chemical disclosure and permit limited exemptions for trade secrets.
Rule in Progress
“We will continue to gather public input throughout this process to ensure that the disclosure rule enhances public confidence in hydraulic fracturing on public lands, while also encouraging continued safe and responsible exploration and production for many decades to come,” Adam Fetcher, a spokesman for the Interior Department, said in an e-mail.
New rules are part of President Barack Obama’s plan to increase natural gas production in safe and environmentally friendly way.
“We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years and my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy,” Obama said in his Jan. 24 State of the Union address. “I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use, because America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.”