Republican Wyoming governor Matt Mead has some advice for the U.S. Interior Department: Back off your fracking rules.
Governor Mead was responding to a recent proposal by the Interior Department that would require energy companies who are fracking in the United States to disclose the chemical cocktails that they are pumping into the ground, posing a threat to our water supplies. Thanks to a law known as the “Halliburton Loophole,” these chemicals are currently protected as an “industry secret,” and therefore do not have to be revealed to the public.
Governor Mead says that the requirement is “duplicative” and “unnecessary,” as Wyoming already has laws on the books that require energy companies to disclose which chemicals they are using in their fracking fluid. Mead believes that the federal government should let the states take the lead and enact their own laws regarding fracking. Wyoming was the first state in the nation to require disclosure from fracking companies, and Mead believes that other states will follow Wyoming’s lead on the issue.
While Wyoming’s disclosure law appears to be a positive step on paper, it has completely fallen apart when put into practice. EarthJustice says that the state has already granted more than 50 waivers to energy companies so they can still keep certain ingredients a secret from the public. That’s hardly a step in the right direction.
The money trail on this issue tells the story. The state of Wyoming pulled in an estimated $430 million from gas extraction activities in 2011. But that money comes at a steep price – across the state, fracking chemicals have leached into water supplies and the EPA has confirmed that water in areas of the state is contaminated and unsafe.
From a CNN report in December 2011:
The EPA constructed a pair of wells to test water quality in the Wyoming aquifer, near where natural gas firm Encana (ECA) has drilled. Within these wells, researchers found synthetic chemicals associated with the fracking process as well as high methane levels and benzene concentrations “well above” Safe Drinking Water Act standards.
As a precautionary step, the Department of Health and Human Services has advised local residents to use alternative sources of water for drinking and cooking and to use ventilation when showering, in order to air out potentially dangerous chemicals.
“Given the area's complex geology and the proximity of drinking water wells to ground water contamination, EPA is concerned about the movement of contaminants within the aquifer and the safety of drinking water wells over time,” the agency said. Samples of drinking wells showed small amounts of compounds “consistent with migration from areas of gas production,” it added.
Keep in mind, this is the model that Republican governor Matt Mead is hoping other governors will use for their own states.