Shale Daily / NGI All News Access

Texas Bill Would Require Frack Fluid Disclosure

A bill filed last Friday by the Republican chair of the Texas House Committee on Energy Resources to require disclosure of the contents of hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) fluid has bipartisan support as well as industry and environmentalist fans.

Two Republicans -- Reps. Myra Crownover of Denton and Tan Parker of Flower Mound -- and two Democrats -- Reps. Lon Burnam of Fort Worth and Mark Strama of Austin -- helped pen HB 3328 with Resources Committee Chair Jim Keffer (R-Eastland).

The legislation also is supported by the Environmental Defense Fund and Texas League of Conservation Voters (TLCV).

David Weinberg, executive director of Austin-based TLCV, told NGI's Shale Daily that his group is behind the bill as it is currently written. "I would be shocked if the bill did not undergo some sort of transformation that either the industry asked for or the environmental community asked for," he said. "For now, we generally support the bill as written."

So does Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co., according to its general counsel, Mark Boling. "Energy and the environmental groups have tried to get together on this, and I hope we have done that with this bill," Boling told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Last year Arkansas lawmakers voted to require disclosure of frack fluids (see Shale Daily, Dec. 10, 2010). The Texas legislation is similar to that adopted in Arkansas. "Arkansas is the state that certainly people here are talking about, and I know that this legislation is similar to what they passed last year," Weinberg said.

"I think our feeling is the [Texas] bill is pretty strong. There are a host of issues with natural gas drilling in Texas. We think this is a bit of a no-brainer; the disclosure of chemicals is something at a baseline that we need to be doing here."

Keffer's bill allows for the confidentiality of bona fide "trade secret" frack fluid contents. It also has provisions to allow for the disclosure of all fluid contents, including those deemed to be secret, in the case of medical emergencies.

In a recent review of state policies on frack fluid disclosure, The Wilderness Society found little to complement. However, the group said, "We found that out of 33 states where drilling occurs, only one requires full public disclosure of the chemical components of hydraulic fracturing fluids: Wyoming. Three other states (Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Tennessee) provided some disclosure of chemicals..."

Late last year saw the launch of a state-based registry for companies to voluntarily disclose the contents of fracking fluids. It is a joint effort of the Ground Water Protection Council, which represents members of state groundwater regulatory agencies; and the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission (see Shale Daily, Dec. 16, 2010). The registry has the support of the American Petroleum Institute.

Halliburton Co. has also said it will disclose fracking fluids (see Shale Daily, Nov. 16, 2010). An ExxonMobil Corp. executive has urged similar transparency throughout the industry (see Shale Daily, Nov. 9, 2010).

Previously in the current Texas legislative session state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) filed a bill that would have required a tracer chemical to be added to frack fluids so the fluids could later be identified in cases where water contamination by fracking is alleged (see Shale Daily, Feb. 24). That bill (SB 772) was referred to the Senate Natural Resources Committee near the end of February.

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