The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission green lights new ‘toughest in nation’ hydraulic fracturing disclosure rule

anadarkohydraulicfracturingapril2011

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):

Colorado’s rule, approved Tuesday, goes further than other states regarding mandatory disclosure of chemicals and their concentrations. Some states are required to disclose chemicals deemed hazardous in the workplace by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). Until now, that disclosure has been voluntary in Colorado…

“We support transparency,” [Encana spokesman Doug Hock] said. “We’re already participating in FracFocus” — an online chemical disclosure registry, a joint project of the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission…

The rule does allow for a disclosure exemption in some cases because of the Colorado Uniform Trade Secrets Act which allows companies to protect their trade secrets. “If a company wants to claim a trade secret, they have to file a claim with the oil and gas commission and explain why they deserve trade secret protection,” [COGCC commissioner Richard Alward] said. Chemicals will be listed, but not the makeup of a particular formula deemed a trade secret thus preserving a “company’s competitive advantage while revealing to the public the names of chemicals,” Alward said…

“Developing policy is always a compromise,” Alward said. “I think we’ve taken a real positive step forward.”

Here’s a release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:

Gov. John Hickenlooper today applauded the collaborative efforts of the oil and gas industry, many environmental groups and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in approving new hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure rules.

The new rules, endorsed by industry and environmental groups and approved by the nine-member Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), require oil and gas operators to publicly disclose all chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing of their wells, while still recognizing and protecting trade secrets.

The mandatory disclosure rules will take effect April 1, 2012, and apply to all oil and gas wells hydraulically fractured in Colorado.

“These new rules give Colorado the fairest and most transparent set of fracking regulations in the country and will likely serve as a model for other states,” Hickenlooper said. “We commend everyone involved for coming together to create a chemical disclosure rule that marks another big step forward for Colorado’s responsible regulation of this important industry. We believe oil and gas development can thrive while also meeting our high standards for protection of public health, water and the environment.”

The amended rules adopted today require that operators post the hazardous and non-hazardous chemicals used to hydraulically fracture a well, as well as the concentrations of each chemical, to the disclosure website http://www.FracFocus.org. Disclosure must be made within 60 days of completion of hydraulic fracturing.

The rules strike a balance by recognizing and protecting industry trade secrets. Such confidential business information is already protected by state laws, including the Colorado Open Records Act and the Colorado Uniform Trade Secrets Act, and major federal environmental statutes. Regulators and medical professionals, however, can still obtain trade secret information upon request under the rules. Further, operators must file a form ensuring trade secret claims meet the appropriate definition, and sign an affidavit – under penalty of perjury – that chemicals cited qualify for trade secret protection.

The rule builds upon major progress in chemical disclosure associated with oil and gas development. In 2008, nationally groundbreaking amendments to COGCC rules mandated disclosure of hydraulic fracturing chemicals to state regulators and health professionals upon request. Earlier this year, the COGCC worked with industry for voluntary disclosure to the publicly available FracFocus.org website. Since then, operators have posted information on about half of the wells drilled this year in Colorado to the site, with substantially all of the state’s largest operators participating.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

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