Proposal would post required disclosure for fracking on site now used voluntarily by companies

Colorado oil and gas regulators are considering requiring public disclosure of hydraulic fracturing chemicals via a website where some companies already are voluntarily posting the information.

Also, under draft disclosure rules unveiled by Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff Tuesday, public disclosure wouldn’t be required where trade secrets are involved. But the commission and health professionals could require the information if needed to respond to an incident. That’s akin to the current standard for all hydraulic fracturing chemicals in Colorado.

The commission plans to consider the requirements during a Dec. 5 hearing. Earlier this year, Gov. John Hickenlooper proposed requiring public disclosure of fracturing chemicals as a means of addressing public concerns regarding what is being used in the process. Fracturing involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into oil and gas wells under high pressure to fracture formations and increase production.

Earlier this year, the Groundwater Protection Council and Interstate Oil and Gas Compaction Commission launched http://www.fracfocus.org, a site where companies could voluntarily list chemicals used on a well-by-well-basis. The council consists of state regulatory agencies and the commission is an organization of governors of oil- and gas-producing states.

Mike Chiropolos, lands program director for the conservation group Western Resource Advocates, said he is trying to determine what role, if any, industry has had in designing and maintaining the website. Such a role would raise “huge questions” for him because it’s important that the mandatory reporting mechanism be independent and beyond dispute, he said.

In a statement on the oil and gas commission website, the agency said other states similarly have adopted or are considering adopting mandatory disclosure via http://www.fracfocus.org. It also said all states requiring disclosure protect trade secrets.

Chiropolos said any trade-secret exemptions should be narrowly drawn, and with a burden on companies to make a case for seeking an exemption.

Colorado recently underwent a review of its hydraulic fracturing regulations by the nonprofit group State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations Inc. It found Colorado generally meets hydraulic fracturing guidelines established last year, but it recommended improvements, including a reporting requirement covering areas including the materials used in fracturing.

Chiropolos said an important improvement would be an increase in the minimum required setback between homes and drilling rigs, which is now just 150 feet in rural areas. State officials say that in most cases companies locate their rigs much farther away from homes.


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