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Colorado Sets the Bar on Hydraulic Fracturing Chemical Disclosure
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) praised the state of Colorado Dec. 13 for adopting a fracturing fluid chemical disclosure policy that, in many ways, can serve as a model for the nation.
“The public expects and deserves full transparency from the oil and gas industry,” said EDF President Fred Krupp. “Today, Colorado has taken a critical step toward building the public trust.”
The Colorado rule builds on the experience of Wyoming, Arkansas, Texas and Montana—and makes important strides in requiring companies to disclose chemical information in ways that are useful and user-friendly. The Colorado rule requires companies to disclose chemical information on a database that allows the public to search and sort information by company, chemical, geographic area and other criteria.
“Moving to a searchable database format will allow land owners, neighbors, regulators and policymakers to focus their questions and their research about hydraulic fracturing operations. This is a big step forward, and possibly Colorado’s most important contribution to disclosure efforts in states across the nation,” Krupp said.
Colorado also set a national standard by requiring disclosure of the identities and concentrations of all chemicals, not just those that have been determined to be hazardous in occupational settings under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.
According to industry testimony before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), at least half of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing don’t fall under these OSHA regulations. “The OSHA regulations have to do with workplace safety. They don’t tell you anything about whether a chemical might be dangerous to human health if released through environmental pathways. Disclosing identities and chemical concentrations for all chemicals, not just for a limited subset, is the first step toward better understanding the toxicity and potential impacts of these fluids,” Krupp said.
Finally, the Colorado rule takes a reasonable approach to trade secrets. EDF recognizes that protecting legitimate trade secrets can foster innovation—in this case, hopefully incentivizing industry to develop less-toxic alternatives for fracturing fluids. However, EDF also believes citizens should have a broad right to challenge trade secret claims.
“You need to have meaningful policing mechanisms in place to ensure trade secret claims are on the up and up,” said Krupp.
The Colorado rule puts an important protection in place by requiring that companies submit a substantiation form to the COGCC when they make trade secret claims.
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