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Groups Push for More Disclosure of Fracking Chemicals

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016   

HELENA, Mont. — Two groups petitioned the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation on Tuesday, asking to close loopholes that they said keep landowners in the dark about potentially toxic chemicals being injected into the ground at drilling sites.

Derf Johnson, water program director for the Montana Environmental Information Center - which, along with the Natural Resources Defense Council, brought the petition to the board - said the current regulations only require companies to disclose the chemicals they're using after the fact. For nearby landowners, he said, that isn't practical.

"You can't ask landowners to test for all of these different chemicals,” Johnson said. "They need to know beforehand what particular chemicals the operator intends to use, so they can test for those specific constituents and it won't cost them nearly as much."

According to Johnson, many landowners get baseline tests done on their water so they can repeat the test after the fracking to see if their water supply has been contaminated with toxic chemicals.

The board has 60 days to respond to the petition.

Under current regulations, oil and gas companies don't have to release information on certain fracking chemicals that they consider to be "trade secrets." But Johnson said state regulators don't give those claims the proper scrutiny.

"Right now, it's a complete loophole that allows fracking operators to completely ignore the rule,” Johnson said. "And this will force them to actually demonstrate that they have a legitimate, 'trade secret' interest in their chemicals."

A 2015 study by the Environmental Working Group examining the contents of fracking fluids used in California wells, found dozens of chemicals that have been linked to cancer, reproductive harm and hormone disruption.


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