Our View: Fracking disclosure needed

Saturday , December 08, 2012 - 2:20 PM

Editorial Board

The United States has the potential to become the largest producer of energy in the world. Fracking plays a huge role in this future energy boom. The practice involves using explosives deep underground to penetrate a completed casing, then pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals through the perforated casing. The pressure, which needs to be very extreme, fractures the shale rock. The sand maintains the cracks, providing oil and natural gas access by developers.

It’s an extremely complicated process, and it’s fraught with environmental risks, particularly to drinking water in areas where fracking occurs. There have been incidents of homeowners near fracking sites who have ignited their own home drinking water. Last year, the EPA declared drinking water in Pavilion, Wyo., contaminated because of fracking.

The chemicals used in fracking can be very dangerous. One chemical dumped into the earth in Texas has been listed as causing damage to the liver and kidneys. However, despite laws that are supposed to allow, at the very least, disclosure of chemicals used in fracking, major companies avoid the disclosure mandate because of trademarking exceptions to the laws. The chemical that can damage the liver and kidneys, according to an Associated Press story, was exempt from disclosure because of the trademark exemption. In fact, the Associated Press notes that there were 19,000 similar trademark exemptions claimed by drilling companies in Texas this year alone, through August.

That’s ridiculous. Any chemical disclosure law involving fracking that allows 19,000 exemptions in eight months isn’t worth a teaspoon of fracking-contaminated water. If fracking is to become the key component of the U.S. renewal of an energy boom over the next generation, it must be done in a manner that avoids water contamination and health risks to populations. If the fracking industry can’t meet those standards, then it should fail.

Utah has disclosure laws for fracking. They took effect Nov. 1. The laws mandate that the amount and type of chemicals used in fracking be reported at fracfocus.org.

That’s great, but we need to make sure those laws are free of the trademark exemptions that are gutting other fracking disclosure laws.

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