Clear It With Sidney

Notes on journalism for the common good, by Lindsay Beyerstein

One in Five Fracking Chemicals is a Secret in Texas, Despite Disclosure Law

 

Like the Colonel’s 11 secret herbs and spices, the recipe for the fracking fluid known as EXP- F0173-11 is closely guarded. The manufacturer maintains that it doesn’t have to disclose certain secret ingredients that give EXP- F0173-11 the great taste and extreme viscosity* that frackers know and love.

A new Texas law requires drilling companies to say exactly which chemicals they are injecting into the ground in persuit of natural gas, but the law has a huge loophole:

Drilling companies in Texas, the biggest oil-and-natural gas producing state, claimed similar exemptions about 19,000 times this year through August, according to their chemical- disclosure reports. Data from the documents were compiled by Pivot Upstream Group, a Houston-based firm that studies the energy industry, and analyzed by Bloomberg News. Nationwide, companies withheld one out of every five chemicals they used in fracking, a separate examination of a broader database shows.

Trade-secret exemptions block information on more than five ingredients for every well in Texas, undermining the statute’s purpose of informing people about chemicals that are hauled through their communities and injected thousands of feet beneath their homes and farms, said Lon Burnam, a Democratic state representative and a co-author of the law. [Bloomberg] 

Companies can get the exemption just by asserting that an ingredient is a trade secret. There’s no independent oversight mechanism to make sure they’re exempting chemicals in good faith. 

*Or whatever it is that makes EXP- F0173-11 a favorite for discerning frackers. That’s probably a secret, too. 

[Photo credit: Bilal Kamoon, Creative Commons.]