Farm and ranch owners in Montana are suing the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation over rules that allow energy companies to keep the chemicals they use for hydraulic fracking a secret. The Board’s rules do not require companies to provide specific information about the chemicals used until fracking operations are complete or if the chemicals are declared a trade secret. The suit says this violates Montana’s constitution, which guarantees a right to know and the right to a clean and healthful environment.
The Safe Drinking Water Act was amended in 2005 to exclude fracking from the Underground Injection Control Program, so drillers are not required to disclose their components. Although fracking fluid is mostly comprised of water, other constituents include friction reducers, surfactants, gelling agents, acids, corrosion inhibitors, antibacterial agents, sand and clay stabilizers. Fracking fluid could also pick up other chemicals imbedded in the ground such as salt, heavy metals, radium, and uranium before it returns to the surface for disposal. This fluid is usually pumped into on-site pits, transported away, or disposed by injection into specifically drilled deep wells.
The lawsuit may be stayed, however, because a bill aimed at changing the disclosure laws is making its way through the Montana state legislature. The bill clarifies which chemicals may be considered a proprietary trade secret and requires companies to disclose certain chemicals used in fracking fluid. Some environmental groups say the bill does not go far enough by failing to require the disclosure of chemicals before fracking occurs and not calling for baseline testing of wells to monitor any contamination from fracking.
Between 4,000 and 7,000 wells have been fracked in Montana. In 2015, 65 percent of oil production and 39 percent of natural gas production in the state involved fracking. As reliance on natural gas increases, we can expect to see a commensurate increase in fracking operations. Hopefully, oil and gas companies will continue to improve their operations to mitigate any damages they may cause. If not, we need state legislatures and governmental agencies to provide proper oversight to ensure no environmental catastrophe occurs.
Source: The Missoulian
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