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Project Will Compile Information on Chemicals Used in Fracking

Jack Z. Smith
Star-Telegram
Friday, Oct. 15, 2010

Two state government groups have initiated a joint project to implement a national Web-based system "to obtain, store and publish information concerning chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process," Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Victor Carrillo said Friday.

The move comes as environmental groups and others push for stalled federal legislation mandating disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. The process, dubbed "fracking," pumps water, sand and chemicals under high pressure to fracture underground rock formations and allow oil and gas to flow.

Fracking, coupled with horizontal drilling, has enabled revolutionary drilling successes in major U.S. shale-gas formations such as the Barnett Shale in North Texas. But the Environmental Protection Agency is launching an extensive study of fracking to determine whether it is a serious threat to groundwater supplies that are sources of drinking water.

The state groups building the Chemical Registry for Hydraulic Fracturing are the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Ground Water Protection Council. They said they will work with the U.S. Energy Department.
Carrillo said the registry is expected to cost about $3 million and take one year to complete.

The interstate commission represents member states on energy issues. Carrillo is Gov. Rick Perry's representative on the commission, which was chartered by Congress in 1935.

The water council includes state regulatory agencies that oversee oil and gas activities and groundwater protection. The railroad commission, which considers groundwater protection in issuing drilling permits, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which regulates air emissions from oil and gas activity, are members.

Carrillo, a member of the interstate commission steering committee, said the purpose of the registry is to create and maintain a voluntary national data system "that is user-friendly and available to the public, first responders and emergency personnel." Information about chemicals used at well sites can help emergency responders such as firefighters and medical personnel after an accident. Some information about chemicals is already required to be posted at wells. The announcement said "most energy companies are expected to actively participate in the program," but did not explain how that might occur. A railroad commission official could not be reached for comment.

About 600 people packed a July hearing in Fort Worth at which the EPA sought comments on the proper scope for its fracking study. The results are to be released in 2012.