Last week I had the great pleasure of attending a screening of Josh Fox’s Oscar nominated documentary Gasland . The film describes the public health problems associated with the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing or fracking and contains powerful images of the spontaneous combustion of household tap water.
The words natural gas belies the hazardous process used to procure it. In fracking, toxic chemicals are injected in to the ground designed to break apart the geological formations and release the gas within. The oil and gas industry is the only industry in America that can inject hazardous materials in to underground drinking water supplies. This is because they benefit from the Halliburton loophole created by former Vice President Cheney’s energy task force that exempts fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
A number of states have passed disclosure laws requiring these companies to report which chemicals they use. Wyoming, the first state to require disclosure, appears now to be bowing to industry’s desire to keep 146 fracking chemicals secret citing their proprietary interests. According to the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, regulators have granted disclosure exemptions to 11 different companies that frack in Wyoming.
What I want to know is, if there are that many companies fracking Wyoming, how secret is this information? Do you think that this level of market concentration can occur without knowing which chemicals to use? Do you think that Halliburton-which patented the fracking process back in the 1940s-would enjoy a competitive advantage if only they knew the formula used by CalFrac Well Services Corp.? No. They all know how to frack just fine. This is not about trade secrets. This is about public relations.
The formula for Coca-Cola is also a closely guarded trade secret. But the company stopped using small amounts of cocaine in their products in 1929 because of the public health implications. Now, all soda companies list their ingredients in order of concentration on every can or bottle.