The 20-member board of directors of the national Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) last week unanimously called for a complete disclosure of chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process, which is used to develop most of the shale gas wells in the country.

The nonprofit association, meeting in Pittsburgh, resolved to protect the nation's groundwater by implementing an Internet-based system to obtain, store and publish information concerning chemicals used in the fracking process on a per-well basis. The GWPC is composed of members of state groundwater regulatory agencies.

"We are pleased the energy industry is voluntarily moving toward greater transparency when it comes to disclosing the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process," said Board President Joseph Lee of Pennsylvania. "Even though the process consists mostly of water and sand, it is in the best interest of the public to publish the chemical compositions.

"As a board, we are fully behind complete disclosure, and we believe without question the GWPC has the resources, data and expertise to develop and implement a state-based system capable of providing an unprecedented level of accurate and verifiable information. Since the GWPC members are primarily state officials responsible for administering the underground injection control program established under the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act, we believe no one has more knowledge of groundwater protection than our members."

The technology platform for the national chemical registry would be built using the GWPC's Risk Based Data Management System (RBDMS), Lee said. The RBDMS, he noted, already is used by 25 state agencies that regulate and oversee oil and gas activities. The system was developed by the GWPC under the guidance of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

"We know some energy companies have already voluntarily started to make their chemical compositions available on their websites," he said (see NGI, Sept. 6). "Again, while we laud this effort, individual company reporting is not the most desirable long-term solution. We need a centralized, global site where regulators, companies and -- most importantly -- the public can come for reliable and current information on individual wells. And, while reporting would be voluntary, we have every reason to believe the majority of energy companies will respond favorably and actively participate in the program."

The council, which has begun to build the beta test site with the DOE, expects to launch the website in the next six weeks.

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