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New Texas Fracking Rules Take Effect Today

February 1, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY - Controversial gas-extraction practices could become a little less so in Texas today, as new mandatory disclosure rules take effect.

The industry's reluctance to reveal the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing - or "fracking" - have fueled public concern about the possible environmental and health consequences of the process.

The new rules are among the toughest in the nation, according to Mike Paque, executive director of the Ground Water Protection Council. He says the group, an Oklahoma-based nonprofit association of state water regulatory agencies, runs a website where companies are required to post information about their operations.

"It's chance for the public to see all the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. And there's information on how to check your private water well, information on chemical toxicity, chemical abstract numbers - that sort of thing. So, it's a great tool."

Paque says 'FracFocus.org already has data on more than 10,000 wells in a handful of states. The council does not take a position on fracking, but Paque believes industry transparency is essential. He says public scrutiny tends to speed up innovation as concerns are brought to light.

A typical fracking operation shoots millions of gallons a week of chemically treated water mixed with sand into underground rock, releasing trapped gas and oil. In drought-prone Texas, the process has exacerbated fears of long-term water shortages in some areas. Paque thinks the new disclosure rules will spur greater conservation.

"It really helps people pay more attention to their local water supplies, not taking ground water for granted. And then the companies - it saves them money. If they can recycle the water, or use lower-quality water to begin with, it's just a lot easier for them."

President Obama has supported shale-gas extraction, angering some environmentalists as well as some industry advocates, who say he favors too many regulations. Paque says his group has been in talks with the administration about developing federal fracking policies similar to the new Texas rules.

The disclosures are online at fracfocus.org.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX