Industry Officials and Regulators Say Fracking Disclosures Won’t Prevent Spills

Recently, we’ve reported on a bill (federal) sponsored by two members of Colorado’s congressional delegation regarding natural gas fracking, or a way of extracting natural gas that involves high pressures of water, sand and chemicals.

The bill being sponsored by Reps. Diana DeGette and Jared Polis would require companies engaging in natural gas fracking to disclose the chemicals they’re using in their processes.

These concerns are stemming from increased cases of contaminated groundwater wells surrounding fracking operations.

Much of the evidence pointing to a contamination is anecdotal in nature however.

Industry leaders and regulators say the evidence is flimsy at best and maintain that if the disclosure rules were even in place, it wouldn’t have prevented Colorado’s worst case of groundwater contamination.

Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Director David Neslin maintains there isn’t much evidence to support the connection between fracking and contaminated groundwater.

He however concedes that pit leaks, pipeline breaks and other situations have led to localized groundwater pollution.

Bill sponsor Diana DeGette though maintains disclosures are required and that fracking processes should be more closely regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, a landmark environmental law passed in the 1970s. Public fears and anecdotal evidence of groundwater contamination are the reasons cited.

Industry officials oppose the idea of disclosure since the chemical formulas are proprietary, they maintain. They also contend the injections occur far below the surface – much farther than the level groundwater supplies is located.

Colorado Oil and Gas Association executive director Tisha Schuller says focusing on disclosure won’t prevent any actual contamination.

“The two most important areas to prevent environmental effects are spills and proper well construction. Both of these areas are regulated by state law.”

But congressional investigations sponsored by DeGette have shown the use of diesel fuel as well as up to 29 known human carcinogens in fracking operations.

“We have all of this anecdotal reporting of hydraulic fracturing fluid harming people, but because [companies] don’t have to report what’s in it [under the Safe Drinking Water Act], then we don’t have proof that that’s what’s harming people,” DeGette said, “so I’ve suggested an interim remedy since the industry says there’s nothing wrong with this fluid of reporting it.”

DeGette’s bill would only require companies disclose the chemicals they’re using, not the proportions.

The progress of DeGette’s and Polis’ bill is still ongoing.

Fracking pond