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Fracking Fluid Lawsuit Settlement Closes “Trade Secrets” Loophole

February 11th, 2015

A settlement in a Wyoming fracking fluid lawsuit closes a loophole that would have protected oil companies from disclosing the ingredients of their fracking fluids. The settlement comes from a 2012 fracking fluid lawsuit brought by the environmental activist group Earthjustice against the state’s Oil and Gas Commission. The settlement now requires that oil companies re-apply to the Commission for trade secrets exemptions for over 120 chemicals used in fracking activities.

Fracking Fluid Lawsuit and Trade Secrets

The fracking fluid lawsuit stems from a 2010 law, which allowed Wyoming to become the first state to require that oil companies disclose the chemicals used in their fracking wells. The law came from concerns expressed by citizens about the toxic nature of many fracking chemicals, such as benzene and toluene. The law contained a clause that protected the oil companies from imparting any information on chemicals that they considered trade secrets, but the Earthjustice fracking fluid lawsuit challenged that loophole.

Fracking Fluid Lawsuit and Environmental Worries

Environmental groups have expressed concerns about the contents of fracking fluids, as they have been known to affect groundwater supplies. The Earthjustice fracking fluid lawsuit is one of the first in the country regarding the composition of fracking fluids. Fracking operations, also known as hydraulic fracturing, involves the high-pressure injection of a mix of water, sand, and chemicals into underground deposits of oil and natural gas. The high-pressure fluids break up the rock and sediment surrounding the deposits and allow drillers easier access to the underground oil and gas.

Fracking Fluid Lawsuit Challenges Exemptions

In the Wyoming fracking fluid lawsuit, Earthjustice alleged that the Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission was not scrutinizing the composition of the fracking fluids as closely as the law requires. According to an attorney for the group, the Commission was “handing out exemptions left, right, and center.” The fracking fluid lawsuit settlement will require that the Commission create a written set of standards on the process of evaluating petitions for protections under the state’s trade secrets laws.

Fracking Fluid Lawsuit and Landowner Concerns

The fracking fluid lawsuit settlement may also address the concerns of the state’s farmers, ranchers and landowners. Several of the state’s largest landowners spoke out against the exemptions for trade secrets. They cited that the trade secrets protection made it harder for them to conduct groundwater tests. The landowners had no knowledge of the specific chemicals the oil companies were pumping into the ground, so the groundwater tests were often inconclusive. Without this knowledge, landowners had no idea what chemicals could affect their groundwater supplies, as well as their property values.

Source: High Country News

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