Fracking Hazards Obscured In Failure To Disclose Wells

Fracking Hazards Obscured In Failure To Disclose Wells by Benjamin Haas, Jim Polson, Phil Kuntz and Ben Elgin, August 13, 2012, Bloomberg
Actually, Apache’s transparency was shot through with cracks. In Texas and Oklahoma, the company reported chemicals it used on only about half its fracked wells via, a voluntary website that oil and gas companies helped design amid calls for mandatory disclosure. Energy companies failed to list more than two out of every five fracked wells in eight U.S. states from April 11, 2011, when FracFocus began operating, through the end of last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The gaps reveal shortcomings in the voluntary approach to transparency on the site, which has received funding from oil and gas trade groups and $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy. “FracFocus is just a fig leaf for the industry to be able to say they’re doing something in terms of disclosure,” said U.S. Representative Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat. DeGette, along with Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey, introduced legislation in March 2011 that would require companies to disclose fracking chemicals. … Oil and gas executives say the FracFocus website helps eliminate the need for any new federal oversight that might unify the regulatory approach. … While FracFocus was designed to display all wells fracked in 2011, its voluntary approach allows companies to choose when they want to begin reporting. … Among the largest operators, the companies with the lowest rates of disclosure in the eight states were Midland, Texas- based Concho Resources Inc. (CXO), which reported none of its 160 wells to the website, and SandRidge Energy Inc. (SD), which didn’t disclose 84 percent of its 779 wells. QEP (QEP) Resources Inc. reported 74 of 153 wells listed in state records. Apache was fourth lowest. … For members of the public, the website can be frustrating. Wendy Leonard wanted to know about wells in her area after she saw one being drilled near her children’s school in Erie, Colorado. She asked state regulators, who referred her to FracFocus, she said. “And then I’d go home and wouldn’t find anything,” she said. … FracFocus is operated by two groups: the Groundwater Protection Council, a group of state water officials; and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, an association of states that produce the fuels. … There’s no penalty for failing to participate, he said. … Gaps remain on the website even when wells are disclosed. Companies skip naming certain chemicals when they decide that revealing them would give away what they consider trade secrets. Many of the wells that are listed on FracFocus have at least one or two chemicals marked confidential. Others have far more. Nine undisclosed chemicals were pumped into Marathon Oil Corp. (MRO)’s Cherry Bilsky well in Gonzales County, Texas, between San Antonio and Houston, according to the website. The company also withheld the amounts of eight other chemicals used in the well. The purpose of one product, identified only as “EXP- F1008-10,” is listed as “experimental.” … In May, Pennsylvania regulators issued violations after a pit for holding waste fluid from fracked wells in Tioga County leaked into the vicinity of the Rock Run stream and the surrounding landscape. The Responsible Drilling Alliance, an activist group that tried to figure out what was in the fluids, was stymied when it checked FracFocus, said Ralph Kisberg, the group’s cofounder. … “We see FracFocus as a PR effort to placate people.” … The website doesn’t make its underlying database available to the public. … Not releasing the database was a prerequisite that companies insisted on before they’d participate, he said.

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