FracFocus Website Launched As Hydraulic Fracturing Chemical Disclosure Registry

April 12, 2011 Authors: Stephen C. Dillard, Barclay Richard Nicholson

FracFocus, a new hydraulic fracturing website, launched on Monday with the stated goal “to provide the public with objective information on hydraulic fracturing, the chemicals used, the purposes they serve and the means by which groundwater is protected.” [1] The website is a joint project of the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC), a non-profit association of state groundwater regulatory agencies, and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), a multi-state government agency dating back to 1935. According to statements made on their websites, the GWPC operates to promote the protection and conservation of the nation’s groundwater supplies, while the IOGCC assists its members with the efficient development of oil and natural gas resources through sound regulatory practices that protect our nation’s health, safety, and the environment. [2]

The new FracFocus site allows users to search for information about chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells. The underlying data is taken from Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), which are provided by well operators to comply with federal regulations promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Many of the chemicals used to fracture a well must be disclosed on an MSDS, with the exception of those chemicals that may be kept confidential under OSHA trade secret provisions. [3] In addition to the chemical registry, the FracFocus website links to the IOGCC for resources on current state regulations.

In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began conducting a congressionally mandated study to examine the impact of the hydraulic fracturing process on drinking water quality. [4] The initial results of the EPA’s study are expected by the end of 2012, with a final report issuing in 2014. [5] As part of its research, the EPA has requested hydraulic fracturing service providers to provide more detailed information on the chemical composition of fluids used in the hydraulic fracturing process. [6] The EPA has also requested the standard operating procedures used at each company’s hydraulic fracturing sites, the locations of sites where fracturing has been conducted, and company data on the impacts of the chemicals on human health and the environment. 

For more information about hydraulic fracturing, please contact Stephen C. Dillard (sdillard@fulbright.com or 713 651 5507) and Barclay R. Nicholson (bnicholson@fulbright.com or 713 651 3662) from Fulbright's Shale and Hydraulic Fracturing Task Force. Steve serves as Chair of Fulbright’s Global Litigation Department, and Barclay is a partner in the firm’s Energy Litigation Practice Group.

Learn more about Fulbright’s Shale and Hydraulic Fracturing Task Force at www.fulbright.com/fracking.

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[1]] FracFocus website, available at http://fracfocus.org/; see also Matt Joyce, Fracking fluid website launched, Houston Business Journal (Apr. 8, 2011), available at http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/news/2011/04/08/fracking-fluid-website-launched.html#.

[2] See Ground Water Protection Council website, available at http://www.gwpc.org/home/GWPC_Home.dwt; Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission website, available at http://www.iogcc.state.ok.us/.

[3] See Occupational Safety and Health Standards, 29 CFR 1910.1200(i)(1), available at http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=10099.

[4] See EPA Hydraulic Fracturing website, available at http://water.epa.gov/type/groundwater/uic/class2/hydraulicfracturing/index.cfm.

[5] See EPA Press Release, EPA Submits Draft Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan to Independent Scientists for Review (Feb. 8, 2011), available at http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/d0cf6618525a9efb85257359003fb69d/26195e235a35cb3885257831005fd9cd

[6] See EPA Press Release, Eight of Nine U.S. Companies Agree to Work with EPA Regarding Chemicals Used in Natural Gas Extraction (Nov. 9, 2010), available at http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/d0cf6618525a9efb85257359003fb69d/a96496444c546959852577d6005e63d6.