On May 16, the Obama Interior Department announced its long-awaited rules governing hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on federal lands.
As part of its 171-page document of rules, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), part of the U.S. Dept. of Interior (DOI), revealed it will adopt the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill written by ExxonMobil for fracking chemical fluid disclosure on U.S. public lands.
ALEC is a 98-percent corporate-funded bill mill and “dating service” that brings predominantly Republican state legislators and corporate lobbyists together at meetings to craft and vote on “model bills” behind closed doors. Many of these bills end up snaking their way into statehouses and become law in what Bill Moyers referred to as “The United States of ALEC.”
BLM will utilize an iteration of ALEC’s “Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Act” – a bill The New York Times revealed was written by ExxonMobil - for chemical fluid disclosure of fracking on public lands and will do so by utilizing FracFocus.org‘s voluntary online chemical disclosure database.
In a way, it’s all come full circle. As we covered here on DeSmogBlog, the original chemical disclosure standards and the decision to utilize FracFocus’ database came from the Obama Dept. of Energy’s (DOE) industry-stacked Fracking Subcommittee formed in May 2011. DOE gave a $1.5 million grant to FracFocus.
The Texas state legislature soon thereafter adopted the first bill making FracFocus the fracking chemical disclosure database at the state level in June 2011. Since then, it’s been off to the races, with the Council of State Governments adopting the TX bill as model bill in Aug. 2011, ALEC adopting it as a model bill in Oct. 2011, and the bill becoming state law in Colorado, Pennsylvania and other states.
FracFocus has been an anemic and failed effort by the Obama Admin. to alter the George W. Bush Admin. “Halliburton Loophole” standards for fracking chemical disclosure, which allowed the recipe of fracking chemicals to remain a “trade secret.” It’s amounted to nothing more than the same game by a different name, with a Harvard study recently giving FracFocus a “failing grade.”
The FracFocus Façade: “Truck-Sized” Disclosure Loopholes
Almost two years after FracFocus‘ debut, it is important to scrutinize its disastrous performance.
“Drilling companies in Texas, the biggest oil-and-natural gas producing state, claimed similar exemptions about 19,000 times this year through August,” explainedBloomberg in a Dec. 2012 investigation. “Trade-secret exemptions block information on more than five ingredients for every well in Texas, undermining the statute’s purpose of informing people about chemicals that are hauled through their communities and injected thousands of feet beneath their homes and farms.”
One representative from Texas – the original FracFocus state – said it allows “truck-sized” loopholes in chemical disclosure. An earlier investigative effort by Bloomberg explained just how big these 18-wheelers are.
“Energy companies failed to list more than two out of every five fracked wells in eight U.S. states from April 11, 2011, when FracFocus began operating, through the end of last year,” wrote Bloomberg. “The gaps reveal shortcomings in the voluntary approach to transparency on the site, which has received funding from oil and gas trade groups and $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.”
This moved U.S. Rep. Diane DeGette, author of the FRAC Act – which would mandate actual fracking chemical disclosure, although it’s never garnered more than a handful of co-sponsors - to say FracFocus offers nothing more than the mirage of transparency.
“FracFocus is just a fig leaf for the industry to be able to say they’re doing something in terms of disclosure,” she said.
“Fig leaf” is a generous way of putting it. After all, FracFocus is merely a PR front for the oil and gas industry.
FracFocus‘ domain is registered by Brothers & Company, a public relations firm whose clients include industry lobbying tour de force America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), Chesapeake Energy, and American Clean Skies Foundation – a front group for Chesapeake Energy.
ALEC Model Bill Gone U.S. Public Lands in BLM Rules