What’s interesting is watching the industry’s about-face on the issue of public disclosure of fracking chemicals. As many states have passed their own disclosure laws, industry opposition has not just lessened, but actually morphed in to something of a modest embrace. Make no mistake; Halliburton continues to do everything it can to make sure the details of the harmful chemicals they are injecting never see the light of day.
By contrast, a representative from Apache Corporation intimated at yesterday’s subcommittee hearing that industry initially opposed disclosure because of a natural, almost instinctual, resistance to all regulations. Not, of course, because of a genuine need to maintain a competitive advantage, but rather a knee-jerk reaction opposing government efforts to address public health concerns.
Dr. Cal Cooper, who runs environmental technology programs for Apache, hinted that industry opposition to disclosure simply stems from a basic dislike of regulations- without regard for whether they would actually have a noticeable effect on their operations or bottom line. Apache has a better reputation than a lot of other producers and their officer’s comments about the prevailing industry view struck me as quite revealing.
These comments were echoes from an earlier hearing of the Energy and Natural Resources committee. When asked about disclosure, Kathleen McGinty (one time head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality) said that industry has been left wondering what took them so long to get behind disclosure. This subtle yet stunning shift toward disclosure should inspire industry to join our efforts to pass HR 1084, the FRAC Act. This bill does little more than what a number of states already require- simple disclosure.
Ultimately, I think that industry opposition soured because they actually had little to hide. The public already knows the potential dangers involved with injecting hazardous chemicals in to the ground at enormously high pressures. Industry gains nothing by appearing to cloak their opposition behind trade secret protections. The right public relations move now would be for industry to support HR 1084. Public disclosure will help address the concern many advocates have and will lead us toward the responsible energy development the broader public already overwhelmingly supports.