What's at Stake
Fracking is booming in Wyoming, but the oil and gas industry won’t disclose chemicals in use. Earthjustice is representing a coalition in efforts to shine a light on industry secrets.
Under regulations approved in 2010, Wyoming became the first state in the nation to require well operators to disclose the identities of chemicals that are mixed with water and injected into the ground during fracking. But since the regulations were adopted, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has approved some 50 secrecy requests by Halliburton and other oil and gas service companies, shielding identifying information for more than 190 different chemicals.
Earthjustice is challenging the Commission’s actions, and the case has now climbed all the way to Wyoming’ Supreme Court. In 2014, the Court rejected the fracking industry’s argument to withhold chemicals as trade secrets, reversing and remanding the case back to the District Court in Casper, Wyoming to fix certain deficiencies. The outcome of this case could set a broad legal precedent—as the states of Texas, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Montana, and Michigan all have fracking chemical disclosure regulations similar to Wyoming’s on the books.
Earthjustice is appealing a Wyoming district court decision to uphold the secrecy of the ingredients used in hydraulic fracturing. Attorneys are arguing that the ingredients do not qualify as trade secrets because they include chemicals that may affect the public.
Judge Catherine Wilking of Casper, Wyoming will soon rule regarding a case challenging the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s granting of trade secret exemptions to companies such as Halliburton that engage in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”. At issue is the publishing of ingredients used to perform fracking, information that Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso argued should be public knowledge. The companies countered that the publication of such details would negatively affect their competitive advantage.
New uncovered documents show that fracking company Range Resources persuaded the Environmental Protection Agency to drop its investigation into water contamination of a Texas home—in spite of the fact that preliminary testing showed that the company could have been responsible for cancer causing benzene and flammable methane in the family’s drinking water.