Texas Lawmaker: What’s in All that Fracking Fluid?


As we watch in horror as Japan struggles to deal with its widening nuclear crisis, we’ll pause to note a U.S. energy regulation milestone: A Texas lawmaker (and a conservative one at that) has introduced a bill to force U.S. energy companies to disclose exactly what’s in the fracking fluid drilling companies are pumping into the ground.

It’s the latest action on the red-hot fracking-regulation front, which seems to be falling more to the states as federal officials have yet to shrug off the yoke of “Big Energy” political clout.

It’s worth noting that the proposed “transparency legislation” comes not from enviro-friendly progressives but from Jim Keffer, the Republican House member who represents a district just west of Ft. Worth. He contends, as anyone familiar with the issue knows, that the oil and gas industry has not responded to calls for voluntary limits on harmful materials and refuses to even say exactly what’s in the fluids companies are using for fracking.

The disclosure is important because part of the fracking process involves pumping fluid, under extremely high pressure, into rock formations to release natural gas. There are chemicals in the fluid designed to maximize gas recovery. Some of the chemicals allow gas to escape – acting as a sort of “fill” to hold the gas pathways open. Not unexpectedly, elected officials are curious to learn what those chemicals are and how they might impact the environment and human health.

Regulatory action introduced by a conservative Texas lawmaker (from a prominent political family) is a positive sign that a new “era of responsibility” may be on the way for fracking and the oil and gas industry. Unless, of course, Congress continues to exempt the industry from our most important environmental safeguards.

A good place to follow the Texas situation in with the non-profit Texas Observer website, sort of the Lone Star State’s version of ProPublica. Check in here: http://www.texasobserver.org/forrestforthetrees/a-big-fracking-deal

For more information on “fracking” and related radiation issues, see our new Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hydraulic-Fracturing-Support-Group/192748310749814?sk=info

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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