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Last year, a hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) chemical fluid disclosure “model bill” was passed by both the Council of State Governments (CSG) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It proceeded to pass in multiple states across the country soon thereafter, but as Bloomberg recently reported, the bill has been an abject failure with regards to “disclosure.”

That was by design, thanks to the bill’s chief author, ExxonMobil.

Originating as a Texas bill with disclosure standards drawn up under the auspices of the Obama Administration’s Department of Energy Fracking Subcommittee rife with oil and gas industry insiders, the model is now codified as law in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.

Bloomberg reported that the public is being kept “clueless” as to what chemicals are injected into the ground during the fracking process by the oil and gas industry.

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Last year, a hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) chemical fluid disclosure “model bill” was passed by both the Council of State Governments (CSG) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It proceeded to pass in multiple states across the country soon thereafter, but as Bloomberg recently reported, the bill has been an abject failure with regards to “disclosure.”

That was by design, thanks to the bill’s chief author, ExxonMobil.

Originating as a Texas bill with disclosure standards drawn up under the auspices of the Obama Administration’s Department of Energy Fracking Subcommittee rife with oil and gas industry insiders, the model is now codified as law in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.

Bloomberg reported that the public is being kept “clueless” as to what chemicals are injected into the ground during the fracking process by the oil and gas industry.

“Truck-Sized” Loopholes: Fracking Chemical Fluid Non-Disclosure by Design

“Drilling companies in Texas, the biggest oil-and-natural gas producing state, claimed similar exemptions about 19,000 times this year through August,” explained Bloomberg. “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.”

For close observers of this issue, it’s no surprise that the model bills contain “truck-sized” loopholes.

“A close reading of the bill…reveals loopholes that would allow energy companies to withhold the names of certain fluid contents, for reasons including that they have been deemed trade secrets,” The New York Times explained back in April.

Disclosure Goes Through FracFocus, PR Front For Oil and Gas Industry

The model bill that’s passed in four states so far mandates that fracking chemical fluid disclosure be conducted by FracFocus, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, claiming it has produced chemical data on over 15,000 fracked wells in a promotional video.

The reality is far more messy, as reported in an August investigation by Bloomberg.

“Energy companies failed to list more than two out of every five fracked wells in eight U.S. states from April 11, 2011, when FracFocus began operating, through the end of last year,” wrote Bloomberg. “The gaps reveal shortcomings in the voluntary approach to transparency on the site, which has received funding from oil and gas trade groups and $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.”

This moved U.S. Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) to say that FracFocus and the model bills it would soon be a part of make a mockery of the term “disclosure.”

“FracFocus is just a fig leaf for the industry to be able to say they’re doing something in terms of disclosure,” she said.

“Fig leaf” is one way of putting it.

Another way of putting it is “public relations ploy.” As Dory Hippauf of ShaleShock Media recently revealed in an article titled “FracUNfocusED,” FracFocus is actually a PR front for the oil and gas industry.

Hippauf revealed that FracFocus‘ domain is registered by Brothers & Company, a public relations firm whose clients include America’s Natural Gas Alliance, Chesapeake Energy, and American Clean Skies Foundation – a front group for Chesapeake Energy.

Given the situation, it’s not surprising then that “companies claimed trade secrets or otherwise failed to identify the chemicals they used about 22 percent of the time,” according to Bloomberg‘s analysis of FracFocus data for 18 states.

Put another way, the ExxonMobil’s bill has done exactly what it set out to do: business as usual for the oil and gas industry.

Originally posted to Steve Horn on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 10:17 AM PST.

Also republished by American Legislative Transparency Project.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Those "loopholes" serve more than E/M's interest (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ron1951

    Statutory/regulatory schemes that force companies to disclose trade secrets can expose governments (whether state or federal) to takings claims under the fifth amendment to the constitution.  There's Supreme Court precedent on this involving (IIRC) Monsanto and FIFRA.  So while this loophole is certainly useful to Exxon/Mobile, it's there for a good reason.  

    •  trade secrets that have no potential for harming (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      starfu

      the general public are one thing.  But when the public health and interest is concerned, this is just one more example of the disdain in which we are held by ALEC and their Big Oil Corporate members.

      So what's the matter with some transparency here if there is no danger?

  •  I was on a focus group last year. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ron1951, starfu

    Apparently it was sponsored by the fracking industry (when I agree to be on a focus group they don't tell me in advance what it will be about and never tell who sponsored it).

    They were testing out various pro-fracking messages and doing pretty well (this is WV, after all). We got the story about how there has never been a documented case of fracking contaminating a well and most of the group were nodding their heads.

    I said that if so then they should have no objection to putting chemical tracers in their fluid so that any potential contamination could be tested (I saw this in Scientific American). It would be in the fracking company's best interest, since they could prove there was no contamination and any lawsuit would be dismissed. Everyone in the group chimed in that it was a wonderful idea (and most included it in their list of important points at the end). The moderator just looked pained and moved on.

    That was when I realized that the fracking companies don't believe their own propaganda.

    •  of course they know it's a lie. Since when do (0+ / 0-)

      we get any kind of truth from Big Oil or ALEC?  This is the spin that will be on Faux News and the entire ALEC echo chamber to convince people that fracking is safe--without having the proof.

  •  and for those who say only ALEC is a right wing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    starfu

    "bill mill", here is proof of an SSL from CSG.  Corporations who "quit" ALEC can pay CSG to write legislation for them.

  •  Corporations and "our" elected representatives (0+ / 0-)

    have slid another one past us. Thanks for the heads-up media.
    I don't care what the fracking "recipe" is, I would just like to know what the ingredients are.
    Alpha Natural Resources has put their plans for a new mine on hold (Thank Goodness) and has drilled and just yesterday began their fracking process on neighboring property. The noise and light pollution are an aggravation already. Not to mention the dry bulk haulers.
    My hand dug well is less than 3000 foot distant from the wellhead, 10 feet from my house. My spring (main water source, much better and more copius) is just over 3000' From The Wellhead but I have yet to get an answer as to how close the spring or the well is to one of the horizontal runs. The "obligatory" baseline water sample was collected from the well but the contractor was told Not to test the spring...Oh, they will come back to test the well again if I claim a problem...
    Arrrrrrrghhh !
    The watershed I am in feeds the Monongahela River and it drains to the Ohio River. Watch for more limits on safe fish consumption frequency...

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