Don’t back off on fracking disclosure

A few words for U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, the Denver Democrat, who introduced legislation to require energy companies to disclose the substances they use to fracture tightly compacted sands thousands of feet below the surface.

First: Thanks for slowing down a bit and, perhaps counterintuitively, don’t give up.

DeGette on Wednesday withdrew a bill amendment aimed at requiring disclosure of the substances. The industry was understandably concerned with protecting its extremely valuable trade secrets and felt threatened by the legislation.

Thanks, then, to DeGette for agreeing to take a moment to let things settle a bit.

We’re also appreciative that DeGette seems to be near a deal with the energy industry on a disclosure agreement dealing with those very issues. Public disclosure of each company’s fracking formula would be a disastrous compromise of those companies’ intellectual property rights. But disclosure to regulatory agencies in the interest of public safety is quite different.

It’s important to note that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking a look at the effects of hydraulic fracturing on human health and the environment. The result of that study should be helpful in defining and crafting any needed legislation.

It’s hard to overstate the significance of hydraulic fracturing to the modern American economy.

Natural gas is being used to provide more and more electricity, heat and cool more homes, and might soon become accepted as a transportation fuel.

Natural gas is fast becoming a major underpinning of the American economy and a major reason for that is hydraulic fracturing, which is being employed in gas fields across the United States.

Just as we’re aware of the importance of natural gas, we’re mindful that things can go wrong, as has been demonstrated of late in the Gulf of Mexico with a gigantic oil plume threatening other industries, notably the shrimping and fishing industries of Louisiana.

Offshore drilling and drilling in the Piceance Basin are analogous to this extent: No one anticipated, much less planned for, a disaster a mile beneath surface of the gulf. Perhaps a mile beneath the sagebrush flats of the Piceance, another disaster lurks.

We should be as prepared as possible for that eventuality.

One way to do that, it seems to us, is to make sure that agencies such as the EPA have as much information as they need without compromising industry investments in the technology and each company’s competitive edge.

Rep. DeGette seems to be on the right track now. She ought not back off.


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