The Texas Senate Wednesday evening unanimously passed legislation to require disclosure of the contents of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) fluid, "breaking ground that no other state has done," according to state Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay). However, a floor amendment could thwart the bill's progress.
The House previously passed similar frack fluid legislation, but an amendment to the Senate's version by Fraser Wednesday attached SB 655, which is a bill to address recommendations by the state's Sunset Commission for the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) (see Shale Daily, April 6). The House and Senate versions of the legislation that would reconfigure the RRC are in conflict, which could thwart reconciliation of the fracking legislation in conference committee.
"Members, this [SB 655 amendment] is the RRC commission sunset bill that died over in the House; this is an attempt to revive that," Fraser said. The last day of the regular legislative session is Monday.
Fraser touted the frack fluid bill for, among other things, for recognizing producer/operator rights to protect the "secret sauce" in hydrofracking fluid. Companies concerned about protecting trade secrets may apply to the state attorney general's office to prevent disclosure, Fraser explained on the Senate floor.
"I think probably every square inch of my district is sitting on top of the Barnett Shale," said state Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), who was Senate cosponsor of the bill with Fraser. "I don't think there is any other state in the nation that has a disclosure requirement this comprehensive..."
According to an analysis of the bill, it "could create the nation's strongest hydraulic fracturing fluid disclosure regime, thus earning the support of several environmental groups and the backing of many in industry because the legislation provides certain limited trade secret protections that will allow operators and service providers to protect their intellectual property."
State Sen. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy) sought to slow implementation of some disclosures until the completion of fracking studies currently under way in Texas and nationally. "The question is are we moving too quickly. The question is are we going to make sure that we take into account the right studies, the studies that are going on today." Hegar said he only wanted to delay disclosure of non-hazardous frack fluid contents with the intent of protecting proprietary information. The amendment failed.
The bill (HB 3328) was filed in the House in March with bipartisan support (see Shale Daily, March 18). 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 the legislation with House Resources Committee Chair Jim Keffer (R-Eastland). The bill also was supported by the Environmental Defense Fund and Texas League of Conservation Voters.
Fraser, who is chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, had said he was caught off guard by HB 3328 when it arrived in his committee, and he suggested that it might cause "unintended consequences" and needed further review (see Shale Daily, May 18). Nevertheless, he was an enthusiastic sponsor of the bill during debate Wednesday.
Three amendments were also put forth by state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth), whose district also overlies the Barnett Shale. These would have directed the RRC to study the feasibility of adding a tracer chemical to frack fluid and create a fracking advisory committee. The third Davis amendment would have initiated a study by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality of stormwater runoff from natural gas well sites. All three amendments failed.
Also on Wednesday, Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality issued an order specifying new requirements for producers using hydrofracking, including disclosure of frack fluid contents via posting of "material safety data sheets." In Arkansas, regulators have a rule in place to require fluid content disclosure.