Industry Must Stop Stalling on Fracking Disclosure, Chevron Exec Says

An energy company executive says companies engaged in <"">hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, should be more forthright about what chemicals are contained in their fracking fluid. Gary Luquette, president of North America exploration and production for Chevron, said Wednesday during the first meeting of a federal natural gas panel that drillers were using “intellectual property” to avoid disclosure.

“We have used this ‘intellectual property’ issue as a convenient excuse to move slow,” Luquette said on Wednesday.

“I personally believe there is space in the middle between protecting the IP and giving the public the information they desire,” he said.

In hydraulic fracturing, fracking fluids are injected into the ground at high pressure to shake loose gas and oil deposits. Because of a loophole in the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, energy companies are not required to disclose the chemicals used in the fluids. As fracking has become more widespread, some states have started requiring drillers to disclose the makeup of their fracking fluids. Texas is considering such a law, and Wyoming, Arkansas and Pennsylvania have enacted disclosure regulations.

The federal panel where Luquette spoke – known as the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) Natural Gas Subcommittee – was set up by the Obama Administration, and will advise the government on practices for shale extraction to ensure public health, a Reuters report said. But environmentalists are skeptical of the panel because six of seven members have financial ties to the energy industry.

During Wednesday’s hearing, some on the panel insisted the industry hasn’t been slow on disclosure, with a Chesapeake Energy official pointing out that the company discloses fracking fluid information on an industry-sponsored website, But as we’ve reported previously, that reporting is strictly voluntary.

During the hearing, energy industry representatives advocated for regulation of fracking at the state, rather than federal, level. Environmentalists, however, disagree with that stance, and want the federal government to set fracking regulations.

“We need our federal government to set clear rules that will protect public health and the environment. We need public resources to oversee these giant energy companies. This industry has not earned the trust of the people of Pennsylvania; their track record so far speaks volumes,” Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania State Director for Clean Water Action said.

A statement from the group pointed out that Pennsylvania regulators have not required treatment plants accepting Marcellus Shale gas drilling wastewater to get new permits before discharge into local rivers. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not required any sewage plants accepting the wastewater to get approved pre-treatment plans in place prior to discharge.

“In Pennsylvania we are no longer speculating on what the environmental impacts are from Marcellus Shale gas drilling. With only 2,500 wells drilled, we had over 1,200 environmental violations last year. This industry is clearly not making protection of our water, air, and land a priority,” Arnowitt said.

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