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Fracking Ingredient "Secrets" to Be Reviewed

PHOTO: The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will be updating its policies regarding industry requests not to disclose hydraulic fracturing chemicals in the name of "trade secrets." Photo courtesy of EPA.
PHOTO: The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will be updating its policies regarding industry requests not to disclose hydraulic fracturing chemicals in the name of "trade secrets." Photo courtesy of EPA.
January 27, 2015

CASPER, Wyo. - A recent lawsuit settlement should make gray areas related to public disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing more transparent in Wyoming.

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will adopt new policies to review industry requests to keep fracking chemicals secret, a change approved by all parties, including Halliburton Energy Services. Earthjustice attorney Katherine O'Brien says the commission needed clear guidelines when faced with industry claims chemicals were "trade secrets," even if public health could be at risk.

"There really were no standards the commission was supposed to apply to separate the wheat from the chaff," says O'Brien. "It's our hope, going forward, the state has the tools they need to protect the public's fundamental right to know."

A lawsuit was filed challenging state regulators' decisions to shield fracking chemicals from public view, even though O'Brien says there is ample evidence many fracking chemicals can cause serious health problems and contaminate soil and water.

O'Brien says there are instances when companies should be able to keep ingredients secret, such as the invention of a new chemical or the use of a chemical in a new way. But she says public health must be a priority, and Wyomingites who live near a fracking site have a right to know about the risks associated with the process.

"It's really important they have the ability to identify the chemicals, or at least the bulk of the chemicals that are being used in particular wells," she says. "They can do groundwater testing and protect their health and protect their property."

Earthjustice represented the Powder River Basin Resource Council, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Earthworks, and the Center for Effective Government.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY