Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Is FracFocus a Fig Leaf?

One of the main concerns about haydraulic fracturing (fracking) centers on the chemicals pumped underground to help break up the shale rock formations. What chemicals are used? Federal regulatory efforts to mandate disclosure and transparency have stalled and the EPA has limited powers to regulate the process thanks to exemptions in major federal laws for fracking.

Last year, the industry created FracFocus, a website where companies can voluntarily report wells they have fracked and chemicals they use. The site is paid for by America's Natural Gas Alliance and the American Petroleum Institute. It was created by Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Ground Water Protection Council.

Last month, Bloomberg ran a story reporting on the results of their investigation into FracFocus. They found that participation is increasing rapidly, but at the time of their analysis, 45% of fracked wells were not reported on the site. Furthermore, even for frack jobs that are reported, companies often do not disclose chemicals when they believe it would threaten a trade secret.

This raises a question: Is FracFocus just a PR effort to placate enough people to prevent stricter, mandatory reporting requirements? Or, is it the best we can expect? Should those demanding greater transparency from the industry villify or applaud FracFocus?


  1. What would you do with this informAtion if you had it? When we look for contamination on a site with a multitude of different chemicals we chose just a few to analyze for. The idea behind that is if you find one the others are most likely there as ell. Most fracturing jobs use KCl, ethylene glycol, and isopropanol which are water soluble and would travel in any groundwater that became contaminated.. If you do not find them, anything else that was proprietary would not be there either. The fluid does not selectively leak out one without the others.

  2. Well, I think the idea is partly that people feel they have a right to know what chemicals are being released into the commons and, potentially, their bodies. The information could also help people to advocate for less toxic alternatives.