Texas law requires disclosure of drilling cocktails

February 2, 2012 12:00 am

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Texas has more gas drilling than any other state and on Wednesday it started requiring drillers to release the list of chemicals used on each well -- everything from the tetrakis hydroxymethyl-phosphonium sulfate that eliminates bacteria in water to the formic acid used to prevent pipe corrosion.

Those are just two of the 59 chemicals commonly used to hydraulically fracture, or "frack," shale rock and allow the gas to escape.

The makeup of fracking fluid has grown into one of the most controversial aspects of drilling, with some firms saying the mixture is a proprietary "trade secret" and critics saying that silence proves the fluid's culpability in contaminating water supplies.

The industry, meanwhile, says most of its members have embraced such rules all along.

Chemicals used in Texas will be listed on FracFocus.org, a website launched by the Ground Water Protection Council and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, and already used and endorsed by a majority of the drillers operating in Pennsylvania.

FracFocus.org has been collecting such lists since April, but the Texas rule -- enacted on the same day the U.S. House Science Committee heard testimony on possible contamination by fracking -- gave legislative muscle to a part of the drilling process that has come to symbolize much more.

"With this new rule, Texans will know more about what is going on in the ground for energy production than about the ingredients that go into their sodas," said Elizabeth Ames Jones, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission that introduced the rule.

Other states with similar disclosure rules include Arkansas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Louisiana -- all states that have been home to drilling for longer than the Marcellus Shale region that includes Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania already requires drillers to disclose chemical additives used in the fracking process, but the most aggressive push for chemical disclosure has come from the industry itself.

Starting last month, the Marcellus Shale Coalition industry group required all member companies to register with FracFocus. The site lists information on wells drilled by every major driller in the state, including Chesapeake Energy, Consol Energy, EQT Corp. and Range Resources.

One of the industry's most aggressive lobbying firms, Energy In Depth, even uploaded a video on YouTube showing users how to navigate the site.

Erich Schwartzel: eschwartzel@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1455.
First Published 2012-02-11 01:47:33
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