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April 28, 2014

In Our Opinion: Disclosure of fracking chemicals is welcome

Hey, what’s the good word on fracking?

From where we sit, the good word is “disclosure.”

From where the vociferous local advocates and detractors of fracking sit, it should be their good word, too.

On Thursday, a major supplier of hydraulic fracturing ingredients said it would begin disclosing all of the chemicals used in the controversial process.

Horizontal fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is the procedure in which great amounts of water, sand and heretofore undisclosed chemicals are used under high pressure to coax natural gas and oil out of shale deposits deep underground.

While Texas has had a disclosure law since 2011 and the oil and gas industry has hailed the FracFocus website as a resource for voluntary disclosures of chemicals, the U.S. Energy Department’s March report said that 84 percent of the wells registered on FracFocus held back from disclosing at least one chemical.

The Dallas Morning News reported several loopholes in the Texas law after it was signed by Gov. Rick Perry.

“Incidental chemicals not used for a specific purpose need not be reported,” the newspaper wrote. “Actual amounts used aren’t required. Trade secrets can still be protected.”

“Trade secrets” has been the catch phrase over the years for fracking companies when asked what they were putting into the ground. Revealing what chemicals they were using would put them at a competitive disadvantage, they would say, almost always adding that there was nothing that would harm the environment.

Fracking opponents would counter by saying that if the drillers won’t disclose the chemicals, then they must be bad, and they could just go frack somewhere else.

That’s why Thursday’s announcement by the Houston-based Baker Hughes company that it “believes it is possible to disclose 100 percent of the chemical ingredients we use in hydraulic fracturing fluids without compromising our formulations” is so welcome.

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