(Austin) The Texas House of Representatives is set to consider a major bill today on the House Floor which, for the first time, would require operators of natural gas wells in Texas to disclose the chemicals, hydro-fracking fluids and additives they use when “fracking” a gas well. House Bill 3328 by State Representative Jim Keffer – a Republican from Eastland whose district near Fort Worth has experienced heavy Barnett Shale gas drilling activity — would be a major change in regulation of the oil and gas industry in Texas. Texas would become one of a handful of states now requiring that companies disclose what they are injecting underground, and make that information available on a public website, on a well-by-well basis.
The bill could include an amendment promoted by the Texas Oil and Gas Association that would limit full disclosure of all chemicals by only requiring full disclosure on a publicly-available website of “MSDS” chemicals – those regulated by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) – and not all chemicals. Instead, the “other chemicals” will be on a separate list given to the state agency as part of their well completion reports, and those chemicals will not include the actual volume or concentration.
“Under a proposal being advocated by the Texas Oil and Gas Association, Texas would have an “MSDS plus” system, certainly better than nothing, but a bill that is far short of the much stronger bill originally introduced by Rep. Keffer,” said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We hope the House and Senate will consider strengthening the bill to make it a true model bill for the nation.”
Among the changes Sierra Club is seeking in order to fully support the bill are:
- Full well-by-well website disclosure of all chemicals, including those regulated by OSHA and those not regulated by OSHA;
- A more inclusive list of who can actually challenge any chemicals claimed as trade secrets, including those landowners living within a mile of any well shaft;
- A process for the agency to determine if any trade secret claims are meritorious and not give a blanket protection to trade secrets claimed by the industry.
“Even as gas companies continue to drill the Barnett Shale in North Texas, new shale finds like the Eagle Ford in South Texas are being developed at a breakneck speed, without any disclosure of the chemicals being injected underground. The injected fracking fluids are impacting the water and land of thousands of individuals in Texas,” Reed noted further.
“What happens in Texas is important because Texas is the leading gas producer in the country and the state where hydro-fracking technology got its start,” said Deb Nardone with Sierra Club’s Natural Gas Campaign. “Getting disclosure regulations right in Texas could help bolster disclosure in other states. Weaker disclosure in Texas would provide dangerous traction for the industry to seek limited disclosure in other states.” # # #