Environmentalists have complained that the technique of oil extraction known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is too mysterious—drilling companies are often exempt from disclosing what chemicals they use in the fracking fluid. As an article published by TruthDig.com last week explains, "In many cases, the rules have been limited by a 'trade secrets' provision under which companies can claim that a proprietary chemical doesn’t have to be disclosed to regulators or the public."
New proposed rules announced today by the Department of the Interior and Obama Administration aim to change that, at least on Federal and Indian lands, where about 20% of domestic natural gas production and 30% of oil extraction occurs. Under the new rule, oil companies would have to disclose chemicals used in fracking, although there would be exceptions for proprietary information and the disclosure would not be required until after operations had completed.
In a statement on its website, the Department of the Interior touted the measure as a component of President Obama's "all of the above" energy strategy that would "ensure public confidence in well stimulation techniques and technologies, including hydraulic fracturing." But the move is catching criticism from environmentalists and the oil industry. Jessica Ennis, a Washington-based legislative associate for the environmental group Earthjustice, called the rules "is a free pass to the oil and gas industry at the expense of public health," according to a Bloomberg report.
The American Petroleum Institute, in a statement, essentially stated that federal rules were unnecessary. "The states have proven time and again that they are the best place for responsible regulation of drilling operations," said Erik Milito. He went on to say that "Energy production on federal lands has a history of driving job creation, and creating significant revenue for the government. ... [these regulations] could have a chilling effect on investment and jobs.”