FracFocus Fail

by jim on March 11, 2014

Cover-upRemember how the gas and oil industry was going to police itself by voluntarily disclosing all those nasty chemicals they put in "fracking fluids" in one easy-to-access-online database? Frac Focus was the 21st Century template for a new level of government-industry cooperation, hailed by Reasonable People everywhere as the answer to getting the truth about what chemicals were really being injected and regurgitated during a frack job. Finally, there would be much needed industry transparency.

Turns out. Not so much.

"Oil companies are shielding too much information from public view in an industry-backed database for disclosing chemicals used in oil and gas wells, engineers, environmentalists and energy experts told the Obama administration on Thursday.

The FracFocus registry also contains errors that undermine its role as the leading mechanism for tracking hydraulic fracturing chemicals used in unconventional oil and gas production, said an Energy Department advisory board."

This was no tree-huggers' group making that criticism. It's an advisory board that includes Texas A&M University’s Stephen Holditch, Ram Shenoy with ConocoPhillips, and former Assistant Secretary of Energy Susan Tierney.

As predicted by citizens, the major problem is that companies still want to hide behind the "trade secrets" exemptions and not fully disclose what's in the witches' brew of chemicals they're using.

According to the advisory board, 84 percent of the wells registered in FracFocus invoked a trade secret exemption for at least one chemical since June 1, 2013. In Texas alone, 5,509 of the 6,406 disclosures made in the same time frame invoked a trade secret exception.

So much for transparency. This is exactly why municipalities and states must insist on real full disclosure in their own local ordinances and laws instead of relying on an industry-financed website.

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