Colorado adopts fracturing fluid disclosure rules

Colorado adopted hydraulic fracturing fluid ingredient regulations, effective Apr. 1, requiring disclosure of all chemicals and establishing ways to protect proprietary information. The rules drew praise from both oil and gas industry and environmental organizations.

The regulations allow disclosure through the FracFocus web site, operated jointly by the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission and the Ground Water Protection Council.

David Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, said the commission would like FracFocus to add features enabling searches by chemical and time period.

“If they aren’t added in the next year, we will begin to require reports to us and make the information available on our web site,” Neslin told OGJ in a Dec. 13 telephone interview.

The regulations are online as final modified staff proposals, with marked changes, he added.

The regulations include a provision to protect proprietary information but require filing a form providing contact information and an explanation of how the information constitutes a trade secret. “Under our existing statute, the state and public can question a trade secret claim,” Neslin said. “Even where the information is withheld, state officials, health professionals, and other emergency responders will be able to obtain it.”

Other tools exist

Neslin said while disclosing frac fluid ingredients is important to increased transparency and better public confidence, the commission has other tools that provide more direct influence, notably casing and cementing requirements, and regulations for handling fluids and wastewater at the surface. He said the final regulations reflected an effective collaborative process.

Leaders of both oil and gas and environmental groups quickly expressed their approval.

Tisha Schuller, president of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, said state government, environmental groups, and the oil and gas industry agreed upon a rule “of which all Coloradoans can be proud.”

The new regulations, when combined with COGA’s baseline water sampling program, will provide communities in the state with tools to ensure that groundwater is protected, she said.

Much information will remain available before the rules take effect at FracFocus, Schuller said.

Environmental Defense Fund Pres. Fred Krupp said Colorado’s new regulations build on the experience of Wyoming, Arkansas, Texas, and Montana. Krupp believes Colorado’s regulations make important strides in requiring disclosures in ways that are both useful and user-friendly.

“Moving to a searchable database format will allow land owners, neighbors, regulators, and policymakers to focus their questions and their research about hydraulic fracturing operations,” he said. “This is a big step forward, and possibly Colorado’s most important contribution to disclosure efforts in states across the nation.”

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