On October 24, the Utah Board of Oil, Gas and Mining approved a new rule requiring companies to use FracFocus, the US’s national hydraulic fracturing chemical registry, to report the amount and types of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to produce oil and gas. Seven other states also use FracFocus for regulatory reporting.
Chemicals play a number of roles in the fracking process, from limiting the growth of bacteria to preventing corrosion of the well casing. Typically, between 3 and 12 additive chemicals are added to the water injected into the shale formation being fractured.
FracFocus is managed by the non profit Groundwater Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Commission. Their website was created to “provide public access to reported chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing within their areas.” It also aims to help users put this information into context by providing objective information on fracking, the chemicals used, and how groundwater is protected.
The deep public concerns recently reported in New Brunswick, Quebec and other provinces, suggest that mandatory disclosure should come to Canada as well. As we have discussed in earlier blog posts, there are real concerns that toxic chemicals used in the fracking process will escape into the ground water, causing loss in property values, expenses for replacement water, and potential health damage.
The FracFocus overview of regulatory activities to manage the impacts of fracking notes that three Canadian provinces have taken steps to develop fracking-specific regulation:
- Saskatchewan issued Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids and Propping Agents Containment and Disposal Guidelines in 2000;
- In 2010, British Columbia passed Drilling and Production Regulations pursuant to the Oil and Gas Activities Act requiring that operators maintain a record of all fracturing fluids used in the well which must be submitted to the commission within 30 days of completion of the well.
- Alberta issued a Directive to restrict shallow fracturing operations, which was most recently updated in 2009.
Canada is facing some very difficult choices about resource development. Websites like FracFocus, and non profits like the Groundwater Protection Council, can help to provide the public with neutral and accurate information.
By Meredith James and Dianne Saxe