Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Salazar loophole

Drillers Would Disclose Chemicals After Fracking Under Rules - Katarzyna Klimasinska, Bloomberg News
Oil and natural gas companies won't be forced to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing until work is completed, under a proposed U.S. rule issued today that drew opposition from environmental groups.

The proposal lets gas producers exclude trade secrets and confidential information, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said today on a conference call. It would add about $11,833 in costs per well in 2013, according the Interior Department.
Another gift to the gas corporations?  You bet it is.  Let's call it the Salazar loophole.  

This is a Poison First - Tell Later proposition.  Each gas driller may use several different recipes and sources for the frack chemicals.  There isn't any "one cocktail fracks all" recipe.   Cost of fracking chemicals and/or geological considerations will determine which recipe is used.    Gas wells within a relatively short distance of each other may use different cocktails, and the same would be possible for each horizontal bore and frack from the same well pad.

The oil and gas industry and trade groups are quick to point out that chemicals typically make up just 0.5 and 2.0% of the total volume of the fracturing fluid.  When millions of gallons of water are being used, however, the amount of chemicals per fracking operation is very large. For example, a four million gallon fracturing operation would use from 80 to 330 tons of chemicals

In 2011 Rep. Henry Waxman of Los Angeles, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, joined byEdward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency. The letter said two companies had erroneously reported usage of diesel fuel in fracking fluids.

More than 32 million gallons of diesel were used from 2005 to 2009 by 12 companies employing fracking in states including Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, among others.  The amount of diesel under-reported was about 500,000 gallons.

The gas corporations are still allowed to hide "trade secrets and confidential information".    One of the talking points the gas corporations frequently repeat is these chemicals are the same ones that are contained in "stuff under your kitchen sink".   I ask, when was the last time you drank a glass of Windex?  Greased up a baking pan with Pledge furniture wax?  How about a couple of teaspoons of Comet in your coffee?

Many fracturing fluid chemicals are known to be toxic to humans and wildlife, and several are known to cause cancer.  Potentially toxic substances include petroleum distillates such as kerosene and diesel fuel (which contain benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene and other chemicals); polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; methanol; formaldehyde; ethylene glycol; glycol ethers; hydrochloric acid; and sodium hydroxide.

People are having water tests done BEFORE any gas drilling activity begins to establish a base line and provides some small amount of evidence should there be a question of contamination in the future.  Typically, after suspected contamination happens, more water tests are done.   Even when the presence of KNOWN chemicals or other naturally occuring hazardous materials (lead, arsenic, strontium etc) are found - the gas corporations maintain contaminates were there BEFORE drilling/fracking occurred and therefore are not responsible. 

No water test exists which will test for ALL the possible chemicals at once.   Many of the frack chemicals - that we know about so far - require specific tests to detect them.   If you are not looking for a specific chemical, you won't find it.   Disclosure AFTER the frack provides the gas corporations with "plausible denial".  If a test was not done for Chemical-X BEFORE the frack, and Chemical-X was found AFTER the frack, gas corporations will use the excuse that Chemical-X was present in the water BEFORE any drilling/fracking was done.

Food that we buy in stores are required to be labeled with the ingredients.   We are able to see what is in the box of Mac'n'Cheese before purchasing it and before we eat it.  Shouldn't the same requirement be made of the water we drink as a box of Mac'n'Cheese?

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