Fewer trade secrets for Wyoming fracking fluid

In 2010 Wyoming became the first state to require oil and gas companies to disclose chemicals used in fracking operations. Home to the petroleum-rich Powder River Basin, proponents saw the rule as a model for other drilling-dependent states to follow. The message they hoped the regulation would convey: We can be energy-friendly and environmentally friendly too.

But the rule contained a trade secrets caveat, which allowed companies to skirt the disclosure requirement if they said the chemicals were confidential business information. That exemption created a massive loophole. Now, thanks to a settlement approved Jan. 23, 2015, companies will have to do more to justify keeping fracking chemicals secret.

The settlement comes from a 2012 lawsuit that environmental nonprofit Earthjustice filed on behalf of public interest groups against the Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission. The suit challenged state regulators’ decisions to withhold the names of 128 fracking chemicals.

Chemicals range from the same benign ingredients found in everyday products like toothpaste and detergent, to cancer-causing substances like Benzene. Since frack wells often pass through aquifers, there’s a risk those chemicals could contaminate drinking water, and because of drilling-related emissions, many fracking-intensive areas suffer levels of air pollution that exceed federal standards.

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