The O. Zone

Texas poised to outdo Colorado in fracking transparency

By David O. Williams
Real AspenMay 21, 2011
As Colorado oil and gas officials continue to resist attempts by some members of the state’s congressional delegation to pass federal law compelling the disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, Texas, of all places, could soon establish a national model for fracking transparency.

The Associated Press is reporting a bill that would require mandatory disclosure of many of the chemicals used in the fracking process was approved by the state House on Thursday and is now being considered by the Senate. “The bill in its current form has widespread support among both Republicans and Democrats and GOP Gov. Rick Perry is expected to sign it,” according to AP.

While some environmental groups say the bill doesn’t go far enough because companies would only have to post on the Web the maximum concentrations of chemicals regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, they also acknowledge it’s a big first step in a state dominated by business-friendly Republicans.
An anti-fracking bumper sticker

The GOP has a super-majority in the House and a majority in the Senate, and industry officials didn’t even think the controversial process of fracking – in which water, sand and chemicals are injected under high pressure into gas wells to fracture tight underground geological formations and free up more gas – would be on the agenda this session.

But AP reports Texas Rep. James Keffer, a GOP energy committee chairman who shepherded the bill to passage in the House, became increasingly convinced public fears about fracking needed to be addressed as drilling occurs closer and closer to residential areas.

“There are concerns: What’s going down the hole? Is it poisonous? What is it doing to the water supply?” Keffer told AP. “I felt like the time had to come to get it off the table.”

Colorado regulators say the current state rules for oil and gas drilling adequately cover the fracking process and that federal oversight could pull staff from other important environmental concerns. They’re also touting a voluntary website where companies can list chemicals used in fracking. Most companies want to keep the proportions of those chemicals secret for proprietary reasons.

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