Hydraulic fracturing chemicals are exempt from federal disclosure laws. That’s due to famous language inside a 2005 federal law known as the “Halliburton Loophole,” which exempts drillers from the Clean Water Act.
A growing number of states – Pennsylvania among them – have passed their own disclosure regulations, though. Wyoming was first, in September 2010. Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Michigan followed suit. In June 2011, Texas became the first state to pass a law requiring companies to disclose what chemicals are being shot into the ground at each well.
Several other states, including Colorado and Montana, are in the process of writing disclosure regulations.
A website called FracFocus is becoming a national clearinghouse for information about fracking chemicals. It’s run by the Groundwater Protection Council, and received a ringing endorsement from the federal Department of Energy’s August report on shale drilling, which called for an “immediate” increase in well-by-well chemical disclosure.
All five state regulations and laws allow companies to claim “trade secrets,” and keep information about certain chemicals from being released to the public. Four of the five – Pennsylvania is the outlier – have set up websites where people can read well-by-well chemical information.
Pennsylvania’s Democratic U.S. Senator, Bob Casey, is leading the push to close the federal disclosure loophole. But while the energy industry is on-board with state-level disclosure regulations, the bulk of drilling companies oppose federal requirements, calling them redundant.