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Industry claims they can water down the millions of gallons of toxic chemicals in frack fluid until they are harmless.

I guess the Texas Legislature thinks watering down also works with disclosure bills. The much touted HB 3328 Texas Disclosure bill that was supposed to set some kind of national standard is now so watered down that no one but industry will mistake it for setting any kind of national precedent.

There is a lot of hype going through the internet today with calls from some environmental groups asking members to call in support of this bill. but, an Inside EPA article by Bridget DiCosmo calls it a gutting (subscription required, excerpts follow).

Texas Poised To Gut Novel Fracking Disclosure Bill To Win Industry Support
Posted: May 10, 2011

Texas lawmakers are moving to further strip their already scaled-back bill requiring natural gas drillers to disclose chemicals used in their hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, fluids in an attempt to win over several major energy companies threatening to kill the landmark
legislation if more industry-friendly amendments are not added, sources say.

Rhetorical question: How can energy companies kill a bill? I thought only elected officials could do that. Silly me!

Without the amendments Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project called for, this bill could set a bad precedent. The EPA article quotes the author of the bill, James Keffer, So many states are looking at what Texas will do, Keffer said during the hearing. But Keffer is expected to offer an amendment today that will further water down the bill.

The bill was scaled back during the May 4 committee markup, with a substitute amendment exempting existing wells from disclosure requirements and dropping many of the bill’s earlier mandatory requirements requirements, requiring instead that drillers report their chemical uses on forms for a database being developed by the Groundwater Protection Council, a group of state officials.

The amendment Keffer will introduce contains language from Sen. Jan Nelson’s bill, SB 1930, which is beloved by industry.

Among other things, SB 1930 limits reporting beyond those already contained in the House bill. For example, it requires the state Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas, to exempt a company from any disclosure requirements if fracking ingredients that were not  purposely added to the fracking fluid or those that were not disclosed to the operator by a service provider or a chemical supplier. The commission rule shall not require that the ingredients be identified based on the additive in which they are found or that the concentration of such ingredients be provided, SB 1930 says.

And Keffer’s amendment sets up new parameters for protecting trade secrets, the Devon spokesman says

Why bother?

From the EARTHblog post:

Full public disclosure of all oil and gas drilling, stimulation and workover fluids is necessary for property owners and the public to have an understanding of the health risks associated with oil and gas development and production. Our experience working with landowners in Colorado, Wyoming, Pennsylvania and other states shows that effective full public disclosure must require:

  • Drilling and service companies to disclose chemical constituents, volumes and concentrations used prior to their use on a well-by-well basis
  • Notice to nearby water users of the availability of the chemical constituent list prior to well operations
  • After completion of operations, submission by drillers of any deletions or additions to the initial chemical list
  • A presumption that contamination of water within one mile of the well by any of the chemicals on the list was caused by the well operation, unless the operator has baseline monitoring data taken prior to the operations that shows the existing background levels for the specific chemicals used
  • Provisions that allow for third-party challenges to any trade secret exceptions to disclosure.

Then and only then do landowners have a real chance to demonstrate the full impacts of oil and gas development and to hold the industry accountable. Texas can do better than HB 3328

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