Fracking Chemical Disclosure Bill Blasts Through Texas House, Enviros Unimpressed

FrackingSong_screenshot.jpg
From the rapidly spreading "Fracking Song" from ProPublica and Studio 20 NYU.
In these final days of the 82nd Texas Legislature, lawmakers in Austin are throwing support behind Eastlake Rep. Jim Keffer's bill that'd require drillers to report the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing at each of their drill sites.

The bill got an overwhelming nod from the House yesterday (and just 12 members voted against it in a record vote this morning). Flower Mound Rep. Tan Parker tacked on an amendment that would require less information on non-regulated chemicals. Companies would also be protected from disclosing "proprietary" chemicals, and it's an open question just what standard would be used to determine what proprietary means and who could challenge those claims. The bill would also exempt drill rigs already in place.

The bill would make Texas one of a very few states to require disclosure of these chemicals, along with Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Colorado.

So, now that it's passed, and with a similar bill from Lewisville Sen. Jane Nelson up before a committee today, the Texas Observer asks the environmentalist community if this bill is even any good. To which Austin-based statewide green groups say, sure, better'n nothing. Local activists here in the Barnett Shale give the bill a resounding "Frack, no."

(Speaking of the frack-sounds-like-the-other-thing gag, "The Fracking Song" has been making the rounds this morning -- well worth a watch, though where edutainment rap is concerned, the bar's already set pretty high.)

Gas drilling activist Sharon Wilson is generally unimpressed with the legislation, especially for protecting "trade secret" chemicals from being disclosed. Dallas activist Raymond Crawford agrees: "HB3328 In Austin is all smoke and mirrors. We need FULL disclosure," he writes today.

Incidentally, you can bet this bill will be a hot topic tonight in Mountain Creek, where a who's-who list of gas drilling activists has teamed up to present a primer on gas drilling concerns at Harmony School of Nature & Athletics. From 7 to 8:30 tonight, Wilson, Crawford, Downwinders At Risk's Jim Schermbeck and more of the usual suspects will be on hand for a "Gas Drilling 101" discussion to tackle the "health, safety and environmental concerns of urban gas drilling."
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22 comments
TexasOnMyMind
TexasOnMyMind

Asking a crackpot like Sharon Wilson for a comment on this bill is the height of journalistic absurdity. Ms. Wilson's entire livelihood depends on a never-ending crisis around this and other issues related to oil and gas. Of course she hates the bill - if she admitted the bill is a good one, her ability to pry funds out of the ignorant and dim in the North Texas area would take a dip. Can't have that happening, now, can we Sharon?

scottindallas
scottindallas

If I'm not mistaken, the new state legislation sounds like it mirrors what they already have to disclose on the federal level. The exceptions listed are the same ones the EPA allows, leaving us in the dark as to what they are injecting the ground with.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

Sometime next week, you're going to hear a lot of BS about how this is the strongest legislation in the country. It isn't. Read the fine print. If they think it's a trade secret, they won't reveal anything unless you ask Greg Abbott the attorney general to demand it. But that's a problem because the gas industry has already given him $3 million for campaigns.

Wyoming has the strongest law on the books right now. So at this point anything you hear from Rick Perry is going to be all BS. But that's his way.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

The Senate committee heard the bill today (that would be Sen Nelson's bill and I don't have the bill number right now).

They will probably have a hearing on Tuesday in the Senate Natural Resources Committee but they probably won't take public testimony because they don't have to. Calls to the committee should be made tomorrow and Monday to Senator Nelson as the Senate Author asking her to improve the bill. The members of the committee are Senators Fraser, Estes, Deuell, Duncan, Eltife, Hegar, Hinojosa, Jackson, Nichols, Seliger and Uresti--call them too.

I think the message needs to be this is an important issue they should take action and pass a fracking disclosure bill, but the bill before them is too weak on trade secrets and complete disclosure of all chemicals, including concentrations and volumes

pak152
pak152

enviros will never be happy until all oil and gas wells are shut in, coal mines shut down and the nuclear plants closed.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

This was a bill written by and for drillers. If it wasn't, it would never have made it to the floor. Those companies aren't stupid. The companies know the locals are on to them, and in the Texas Legislature the best defense is a good offense.

Montemalone
Montemalone

If, as the drillers claim, the chemicals they use are not harmful, then what's the problem in disclosing what they are, and for all drilling, existing wells and new ones going forward?

Sharson
Sharson

 I take your aggression toward me as a compliment and indication that I hit a nerve. Truth hurts.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

They don't have to tell the Feds anything. It's known as the Halliburton loophole. As of now, this is a state by state issue. The EPA is toothless on this issue as of today. Go read the Dallas News page 5B what U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall is doing. Or online.

Sharson
Sharson

 Wyoming does have the strongest rule for disclosure of fracking fluids AND

7 companies have requested 98 exemptions.

Can you imagine how this will work in Texas? They will disclose water, sand and the rest is a trade secret.

The only reason the industry agreed to this bill is to avoid federal regulation. They know that regulation in Texas will amount to nothing.

pak152
pak152

ever heard of trade secrets? does KFC reveal the 11 herbs and spices? or how about Coke Pepsi and Dr Pepper revealing their formulas

Lakewooder
Lakewooder

Exploration companies that spend BIG $$ formulating these fluids are reluctant to share this information with their competitors. Can't say I blame them.

TexasOnMyMind
TexasOnMyMind

Wow. The old "I know you are but what am I" dodge. How very third grade of you, Sharon. Talk about touching a nerve...:)

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

It should be a state-level issue. Feds have no business getting involved in this.

EPA is a useless as tits on a bull.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

yeah, but those recipes won't kill ya

Guest
Guest

The problem is if the water table becomes contaminated by chemicals, you have to prove that the frackers caused that contamination, which is next to impossible to do if you can't know what chemicals the frackers are using.

Sharson
Sharson

 Let's see... Isn't the Texas Railroad Commission a state-level agency? Didn't they just receive an EPIC FAIL rating from the Texas Sunset Commission for their corruption, failure to enforce the rules and failure to fine the industry?

Yeah, Texas is doing a fine job of regulating this industry. /sarcasm

Let's see...didn't the federal government just find and kill Osama bin Laden?

Sharson
Sharson

 @fb2faeb3a1adaccfc1c4a0a0bfa01c55:disqus  Chemicals like benzene and toluene are not naturally occurring. Benzene is a man made byproduct from hydrocarbons. When there is no other industry anywhere around, and the water is perfectly fine before fracking, how do you explain these chemicals suddenly showing up after fracking?

Texas: Larry Bisidas is an expert in drilling wells and in groundwater. He is the owner of Bisidas Water Well Drilling in Wise County, and has been drilling water wells for 40 years. Two water wells on his property became contaminated in 2010. When his state regulator stated that there has been no groundwater contamination in Texas related to hydraulic fracturing, Mr. Bisidas replied: ""All they've gotta do is come out to my place, and I'll prove it to them."

Texas: In Wise County, Catherine and Brett Bledsoe report that their drinking water became contaminated in 2010 soon after hydraulic fracturing began on two natural gas wells bordering their property. The water stung their eyes during showers, and their animals refused to drink the water. Without any assistance from regulators, the Bledsoes paid for their own water testing. The testing found benzene, a known carcinogen, at double the safe levels.

Texas: In 2007, three families who share an aquifer in Grandview reported contamination of drinking water after hydraulic fracturing of a nearby well owned by Williams. They experienced strong odors in their water, changes in water pressure, skin irritation, and dead livestock. Water testing found toluene and other contaminants.

Texas: The Scoma family in Johnson County is suing Chesapeake Energy, claiming the company contaminated their drinking water with benzene and petroleum by-products after hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells near the Scoma home. The family reports that its drinking water sometimes runs an orange-yellow color, tastes bad and gives off a foul odor.

Texas: Tarrant County Commissioner J.D. Johnson, who lives in the Barnett shale area, reported groundwater contamination immediately after two gas wells on his property were hydraulically fractured. His water turned a dark gold color and had sand in it.

Texas: Carol Grosser, in south Texas, noticed changes in her water after a neighbor told her a nearby well was being hydraulically fractured. Carol noticed changes in her water pressure and rust-colored residue in her stock tanks. The fish in her tanks died, and some of her goats had abnormal milk production and produced kids with unusual birth defects.

Texas: The Executive Director of the Upper Trinity River Groundwater Conservation District in north Texas stated that the District "gets 'regular reports' from property owners who said that 'since a particular [gas] well had been fracked, they've had problems' with their water wells, such as sand in them, saltier water or reduced water output...."

Texas: Susan Knoll in the Barnett shale reports that last year her drinking water became foamy right after hydraulic fracturing of a well adjacent to her property. Since that time, additional gas wells have been fractured near her home and her drinking water has continually gotten worse. It sometimes foams, becomes oily, and has strong odors that burn Susan's nose when she smells her water. Susan has a lot of videos and more information on her blog.

Texas: Grace Mitchell, a resident of Johnson County, Texas, is suing Encana and Chesapeake. According to her lawsuit, soon after drilling and hydraulic fracturing took place near her home in 2010, her water became contaminated, feeling slick to the touch and giving off an oily, gasoline-like odor. Testing results performed on her well water confirmed it was contaminated with various chemicals, including C-12-C28 hydrocarbons, similar to diesel fuel.

Texas: The Harris family of Denton County, Texas, is suing Devon Energy. They say that their water became contaminated soon after Devon commenced drilling and hydraulic fracturing near their home in 2008, and that their water became polluted with a gray sediment. Testing results performed on the well water found contamination with high levels of metals: aluminum, arsenic, barium, beryllium, calcium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, lead, lithium, magnesium, manganese, nickel, potassium, sodium, strontium, titanium, vanadium, and zinc.

bmike
bmike

There have been no instances of water supplies ever becoming contaminated by these chemicals. The chemicals are well below the water table.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

you're too smart.and that's why they won't ever do it in Texas.

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