Reflecting Risk: Chemical Disclosure and Hydraulic Fracturing

October 2013

A review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, chemical disclosure, and risk.

More than twenty-five years after the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) first made public the chemicals that industrial facilities release into the environment, states across the country are rapidly adopting a new generation of chemical disclosure policies. These policies require disclosure of chemicals injected into oil and natural gas wells during hydraulic fracturing, a technique that uses pressurized fluid to break open rock and create pathways for the hydrocarbons to flow to the surface. Recent advances in the technology of high-volume hydraulic fracturing have led to a dramatic increase in oil and gas production and growing controversy about the effects of the chemicals on human health and the environment. States have overwhelmingly chosen to respond to this controversy through chemical disclosure, a policy approach supported by the public and actors on both sides of the debate. In the last three years, twenty-two of the thirty-five states in which there is or could be hydraulic fracturing have adopted chemical disclosure policies. Six more states are currently considering policies. At the core of each policy is a requirement that oil and gas well operators disclose the identity and concentration of the chemicals they use. In the contested world of hydraulic fracturing, it is remarkable that disclosure has created such unanimity.