A report by ProPublica cites experts who say that regulations in five states that require oil and gas companies to disclose the chemicals used to mine natural gas through hydrofracking contain loopholes and are not strong enough to prevent contamination or allow adequate preparation for leaks.
Michigan is one of the five states that recently added disclosure requirements for fracking; Wyoming, Texas, Pennsylvania and Arkansas are the others. In Michigan, companies that use fracking must give Materials Safety Data Sheets on all of the hazardous chemicals used in that process, but they are exempted from having to disclose all of the chemicals used or in what amounts or mixtures they are used.
Some experts say this isn’t strong enough:
While state regulators and the drilling industry say the rules should help resolve concerns about the safety of drilling, critics and some toxicologists say the requirements fall short of what’s needed to fully understand the risks to public health and the environment.
The regulations allow companies to keep proprietary chemicals secret from the public and, in some states, from regulators. Though most of the states require companies to report the volume and concentration of different drilling products, no state asks for the amounts of all the ingredients, a gap that some say is disturbing.
“It’s a shell game,” said Theo Colborn, a toxicologist who has testified before Congress about the dangers of drilling chemicals. Colborn and her organization, TEDX, examine the long-term health risks of chemicals and have opposed the expansion of drilling in Colorado and elsewhere. “They’re not telling you everything that there is to know.”
The companies say that they have to be able to protect proprietary information, meaning the actual recipes they use, from their competition. But critics say those recipes should at least be made available to government regulators in order to allow them to adequately prepare for an emergency because a given chemical may react differently in the presence of certain other chemicals or in different proportion to other chemicals.