Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Harvard Study Gives Failing Grade to Fracking Industry Disclosure Website

Reuters/Tim Shaffer/Landov

Workers on a natural gas drilling rig near Towanda.

Bloomberg reports on a new study from Harvard Law School, which finds the fracking industry disclosure website, FracFocus fails as a regulatory compliance tool:

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.

The Harvard authors cite reporting by the New York Times, and a Bloomberg report from last summer which found companies under-reporting their operations:

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, according to data compiled by 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.

“Incomplete an inaccurate disclosures … serve no public purpose,” authors Kate Konschnik, Margaret Holden and Alexa Shasteen wrote in the report, “We should make sure these systems work.”

A recent well accident in Wyoming County, Pennsylvania revealed the shortcomings of the FracFocus database. The well spilled more than a quarter million gallons of fracking wastewater before it was successfully capped.

The well name is Yarasavage 1H and it’s operated by a company called Carrizo Marcellus. It doesn’t appear on the FracFocus map of wells in the area.

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