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Major Fracking Company to Reveal All ‘Trade Secret’ Chemicals Used in Drilling Process

Energy

Making little more than a splash in the news a major hydraulic fracturing supplier, Baker Hughes, has announced it will be releasing a list of all the chemicals used during fracking. The news of the disclosure is nothing short of groundbreaking, as the chemical mixture used in most fracking operations has been a secret covetously kept by the oil and gas industry for decades.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

According to USA Today, “The shift comes a month after a U.S. Energy Department task force recommended changes to improve transparency at FracFocus, where companies can voluntarily report the chemicals they use. The Energy Department’s March report found that hat 84 percent of the wells registered on FracFocus invoked a trade secret exemption for at least one chemical.”

FracFocus is a site set up by “industry and state water regulators after Wyoming enacted the nation’s first fracking disclosure law in 2010. Since then, 17 other states have followed suit.” The site has receive notable criticism, namely its allowing of companies to remove specific chemicals citing them as trade secrets. And in a U.S. Energy Department Task Force report released in March, roughly 84 percent of fracking wells registered to the site have invoked trade secret exemption for at least one chemical.

The response to news of the disclosure by the oil and gas industry, as well a state regulators, has been one of discomfort. Many have stated that the mixtures disclosure would ruin competitive advantage for the industry.

The disclosure comes at an opportune time as concern over the health effects associated with hydraulic fracturing are reaching new levels. A report by Lisa Song for Inside ClimateNews and the Center for Public Integrity highlights the battle heating up in Texas over air pollution near San Antonio in the Eagle Ford Shale region, where the oil and gas boom has coincided with the precipitous drop in air quality. The air pollution linked to the boom has the metropolitan San Antonio area potentially facing sanctions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) including, “increased EPA oversight for new development projects.”

The battle in San Antonio is only one of the regions enduring the same struggles in other states, the continuing momentum for more regulations and transparency.

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A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

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At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.