unconventional gas extraction

Wed, 2012-05-02 10:04Steve Horn
Steve Horn's picture

ALEC Wasn't First Industry Trojan Horse Behind Fracking Disclosure Bill - Enter Council of State Governments

19th Century German statesman Otto von Bismarck once said, “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.”

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), put on the map by the Center for Media and Democracy in its “ALEC Exposed” project, is the archetype of von Bismarck's truism. So too are the fracking chemical disclosure bills that have passed and are currently being pushed for in statehouses nationwide.

State-level fracking chemical disclosure bills have been called a key piece of reform in the push to hold the unconventional gas industry accountable for its actions. The reality, though, is murkier.

On April 21, The New York Times penned an investigation making that clear. The Times wrote:

Last December, ALEC adopted model legislation, based on a Texas law, addressing the public disclosure of chemicals in drilling fluids used to extract natural gas through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The ALEC legislation, which has since provided the basis for similar bills submitted in five states, has been promoted as a victory for consumers’ right to know about potential drinking water contaminants.

A close reading of the bill, however, reveals loopholes that would allow energy companies to withhold the names of certain fluid contents, for reasons including that they have been deemed trade secrets. Most telling, perhaps, the bill was sponsored within ALEC by ExxonMobil, one of the largest practitioners of fracking — something not explained when ALEC lawmakers introduced their bills back home.

The Texas law The Times refers to is HB 3328, passed in June 2011 in a 137-8 roll call vote, while its Senate companion bill passed on a 31-0 unanimous roll call vote. Since then, variations of the model bill have passed in two other key states in which fracking is occuring.

Like dominos falling in quick succession over the following months, ColoradoPennsylvania and, most recently, the Illinois Senate passed bills based on the ALEC model. Louisiana also has introduced a similar bill. 

Fri, 2012-03-09 14:44Nathanael Baker
Nathanael Baker's picture

Fracking: Ohio Establishes Tough Regulations After Disposal Wells Cause 12 Earthquakes

State officials have determined that at least 12 earthquakes that occurred in Ohio last December were caused by the injection of brine into hydraulic fracturing disposal wells.  As a result of its findings [pdf], the state has established the nation's “toughest regulations” for the fracking disposal wells.

Brine is a toxic by-product of the fracking process.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the safest way to dispose of it is to store it in underground wells.  However, as residents of Youngstown, Ohio discovered, this technique can cause seismic shifts – the largest of the 12 earthquakes registered 4.0 on the Richter scale.

Originally, geologists were skeptical the earthquakes were caused by the drilling of disposal wells and the subsequent injection of brine; but, after conducting in-depth research, they concluded this process did indeed facilitate the quakes: 

“After investigating all available geological formation and well activity data, ODNR [Ohio Department of Natural Resources] regulators and geologists found a number of co-occurring circumstances strongly indicating the Youngstown area earthquakes were induced. Specifically, evidence gathered by state officials suggests fluid from the Northstar 1 disposal well intersected an unmapped fault in a near-failure state of stress causing movement along that fault.”

So, the state has decided to adopt strict regulations in regards to brine disposal wells. Today, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced a set of regulations which it believes will eliminate any future occurrence of fracking induced earthquakes. 

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