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Report: States Failing on Fracking Chemical Disclosure Laws

This week, OMB Watch released a report taking a comprehensive look at the actions of state governments to require disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking"), an increasingly controversial and widespread practice used to extract natural gas in many states across the nation. The conclusion? On even this most basic requirement, states are failing to safeguard the health of their residents from the environmental dangers of fracking.

According to the report, The Right to Know, the Responsibility to Protect, the number of natural gas wells curently operating in the coutnry has swelled to nearly half a million, operating in at least 30 states — approximately 90% of which employ fracking. The health risks of many of the chemicals used in fracking are established. A 2011 report by the U.S. House of Representatives found that of the 2,500 products used in the hydraulic fracturing process, "more than 650 contained known carcinogens and other hazardous substances." Meanwhile, the industry itself is booming. Revenues reported by just the top ten largest companies that drill for natural gas in the U.S. reached a reported $1.1 trillion in 2010. Yet state laws to require disclosure of these chemicals are lagging behind.

The report notes that, of the 50 states, "no state has yet established all of the elements of a chemical disclosure policy strong enough to ensure the quality of the water and the health of communities near gas wells." Colorado is cited as a state that has made some of the most progress, "putting in place several elements of an effective disclosure policy."

What would an effective state policy towards chemical disclosure look like? OMB Watch identifies four critical elements that they recommend be part of such a policy:

  • Requiring owners and operators of natural gas wells to gather baseline information on nearby water sources and water and air quality before receiving a drilling permit,
  • Collecting detailed and specific information on the chemicals used in fracking from drilling companies, well operators, and manufacturers,
  • Adopting clear guidelines limiting "trade secrets" exemptions from disclosure laws to prevent companies from invoking this loophole to avoid disclosure, and
  • Posting information about the chemicals used at each individual well where fracking occurs on a public website

For more, read the full report

(If you are interested in advancing chemical disclosure policies in your state, please contact Ann Pratt at apratt@progressivestates.org.)