April 10, 2012
The Texas Railroad Commission has enacted one of the most comprehensive disclosure requirements in the nation regarding hydraulic fracturing fluids. The rule, which applies to wells permitted on or after February 1, 2012, requires operators utilizing hydraulic fracturing techniques to upload the chemical ingredients in their fracking fluids to the public website FracFocus.org.
The rule, 16 TAC § 3.29, follows from the Texas Legislature’s authorization in the Texas Natural Resources Code allowing the RRC to promulgate rules regulating disclosure of hydraulic fracking fluid composition. It requires the supplier or service company to provide the Operator with the chemical makeup and concentration of fracturing fluids within fifteen days of completion of the fracturing treatment. On or before that date, the Operator must upload certain well information to the provided public database, as well as information regarding the fracturing fluid composition and volume used.
The rule also provides some protection for trade secrets as well as a means by which to challenge a supplier’s claim of trade secret protection. Additionally, it addresses disclosure requirements to medical personnel, providing that even trade secrets shall be disclosed to such individuals.
Section 3.29 may serve to quell some residents’ apprehensions over the risks involved with hydraulic fracturing, particularly where protection of groundwater is concerned. Some, however, are criticizing the regulation, saying the concentration percentages are misleading, the trade secret protections are too high, and the after-the-fact disclosures are useless. Still, it is certainly a regulation Operators need to be aware of, especially considering the relatively-short time for submitting disclosure for each well and the prospect of penalties for non-disclosure, which have been left in the hands of the RRC.