What don’t they want you to know?

Senate Panel Mistaken to Approve Rule Requiring Fracking Fluid be Kept Secret

Morgantown Dominion Post - EDITORIAL
15 March 2013

Ask anyone about the secret to success and they’ll tell you: Shhhh! It’s a trade secret. Not really. But you might have walked away from a recent session of the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee at the state Capitol thinking that. Especially, if the members of that panel actually believed the line of nonsense the world’s largest provider of products and services to the energy industry was gushing. And apparently they did. This week, that eminent committee advanced Senate Bill 245, which allows the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to put its 46-page Gas Well Act’s rules into effect. But one of those rules was subject to amending by Halliburton, the Houston-based powerhouse. It objected earlier to the rule providing for divulging its fracking cocktail’s ingredients and concentrations. Prior to Halliburton’s pressure, that rule gave operators the option of naming the chemical recipe as a trade secret, but it would still be known to the DEP or a health provider in an emergency. Now, the rule reads that such fracking formulas are not even available to the DEP, except for the purposes of investigations or medical emergencies. And if that data is turned over to a health provider, it requires a physician to ink a confidentiality agreement, and explain in writing why that information is needed. So now, it’s possible, this rule could prevent a health professional from knowing what they are treating until after the fact. Like ... after their patient’s beyond the point of no return, for example. Furthermore, the idea that the agency that regulates this industry is not even privy to such information is ludicrous. Why require an investigation before the identity and concentrations of these chemicals is known? As the fracking fluid rule is stands now, what’s to stop someone from even using an illegal chemical? Far be it from us to pretend we are experts on fracking fluids. We are not. Still, what we do know is many, if not most, drilling operators already post the ingredients on the Internet they use and the maximum concentrations in their recipes. Letting anyone opt out of divulging this information as a trade secret is, at best, wrong-headed. At worst, a betrayal of the public’s trust. This is no trade secret. Someone just doesn’t want anyone to know what it is and how much of it’s being put in the ground. Unlike many secrets — secret societies, oaths and proceedings — the concept of trade secrets is not repugnant to us. However, this does not qualify as one. It’s simply an attempt to mislead the public. And it’s already even failed to do that.