Texas Legislature Weighs Fracking Disclosure Bills

Published April 11, 2011

The natural gas boom in North Texas is not only producing energy and jobs, it’s also sparking action in the state legislature regarding hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the energy-rich Barnett Shale.

By injecting water, sand, and trace chemicals at high pressure into a wellbore, drilling teams are able to unlock natural gas from shale deposits. This fracking procedure, combined with horizontal drilling improvements, has transformed the nation’s numerous shale formations into world-class energy producers.

Davis Seeks Tracers, Formulas
State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) has introduced a bill that would require drilling companies to include a unique “tracer” chemical in water used in fracking.

Davis, who says she is a proponent of “responsible drilling,” has also introduced a bill that would force companies to disclose which chemicals they use in fracking, and in what amounts.

Davis says her two bills are looking out for natural gas producers, but some producers say the legislation is help they don’t need. Natural gas producers who oppose her bill say the precise ratios of fracking chemicals are trade secrets they want to keep confidential from competitors. Other natural gas producers have indicated they don’t mind industry-wide disclosure of fracking formulas.

Competing Bill Gathers Support
Meanwhile, another fracking bill is attracting bipartisan support in the legislature. It, too, would require companies to disclose the chemicals they use, but it would not require them to reveal the ratios of such formulas.

Sponsored by Jim Keffer (R-Eastland), chairman of the House Committee on Energy Resources, the bill (HB3328) has two Democrats and two Republicans as cosponsors. Keffer’s measure has garnered support from both the natural gas industry and environmental groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund and the Texas League of Conservation Voters.

Activists Targeting Fracking
Energy production advocates emphasize the importance of distinguishing between legislation that promotes responsible energy production and laws that would discourage it. Environmental activist groups opposed to increasing energy production have been particularly hostile to fracking during the past decade as technological advances have made the practice much more economical, which has in turn opened up vast new domestic energy reserves.

“The risks from fracking are extremely low,” says Kathleen Sgamma, director of government and public affairs at the Colorado-based Western Energy Alliance. “Over 1.1 million wells have been fracked since 1949, and there has not been one documented case of contaminated groundwater.”

“Environmental groups have worked very hard to raise concerns in the public that are not supported by any facts and have been continually disputed by state departments of environmental quality,” Sgamma explained. “The environmental lobby’s goal is federal control of the entire process that states have successfully regulated for over 60 years.” 

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.