Hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking” as it is popularly known) is an innovative technique that has allowed mining companies to reach rich, previously inaccessible oil and natural gas deposits. At a fracking site, water laced with sand and a cocktail of chemicals is injected deep underground, creating a web of fissures in subterranean rock formations. The cracks allow oil and gas to flow freely, making for easy extraction.
Some of the fracking fluid is removed from spent mines and disposed of offsite – but a large portion remains locked safely within the earth, at least according to mining companies. Despite industry assurances, the potential for chemical spills into groundwater supplies has caused widespread concern.
To date, the federal government has not required mining companies to fully disclose the chemical composition of hydraulic fracturing fluid. However, that is likely to change soon: the Obama administration issued a proposed rule on May 4 that would force companies conducting hydraulic fracturing on public lands to reveal exactly what they are pumping into the ground.
As initially conceived, the proposal would have asked oil and gas companies to disclose the chemicals they intended to use in drilling at least 30 days before starting a new well. In response to complaints from the mining industry that preemptive disclosure would hinder the permitting process and expose trade secrets, the proposal was amended to allow companies to reveal the contents of fracking fluids after the completion of a hydraulic fracturing project.
According to Interior Department officials, the primary purpose of a fracking chemical report would be its use in tracking any future water contamination, so it would not matter whether fluid content was disclosed before or after drilling. These records of fracking fluid composition could provide a valuable safety benefit for mining industry workers or members of the public: they may help pinpoint the source of health complications that arise after exposure to hydraulic fracturing chemicals.
As for Texans, the new federal proposal is unlikely to have a significant impact. Although Texas is one of the biggest producers of oil and natural gas, regulations have been in place since February 1 that require any company drilling in the Lone Star State to provide a listing of most chemicals used in the fracking process.
If you believe you have suffered injury as a result of a fracking-related accident or exposure chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, speak to a Texas personal injury attorney to review your case and discuss your legal options.
- Interior proposes new drilling rules for public land