Bill exempts some fracking chemicals from records requests

By Sarah Rankin, Associated Press

Certain chemicals pumped underground during hydraulic fracturing would be exempt from public records requests under a bill advancing in the Virginia Legislature.


RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Certain chemicals pumped underground during hydraulic fracturing would be exempt from public records requests under a bill advancing in the Virginia Legislature.

A measure from Del. Roxann Robinson would allow the denial of requests under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act for information about chemicals that has been deemed a trade secret. A House subcommittee advanced the measure Thursday.

Robinson, a Republican from Chesterfield County, introduced a similar measure last year. She said Thursday it's necessary to protect the oil and gas industry and its closely held proprietary information.

But opponents said the bill could hinder first responders in an emergency and keep landowners in the dark about pollutants that might be affecting their groundwater.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves pumping water, sand and chemicals underground to split open rock formations and allow oil and gas to flow. The practice has opened up deposits that were previously unreachable but also raised concerns about pollution, contamination and earthquakes.

Under recently implemented state fracking regulations, well operators would be required to submit to the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy a disclosure form that includes information about the chemicals and additives used in the process. The department would determine what qualifies as a trade secret and post all other information online.

David Clarke, a lobbyist for the Virginia Oil and Gas Association who spoke on behalf of Robinson's measure, said the proposed FOIA exemption shouldn't cause safety concerns. If someone were exposed to a chemical or a well failed, details would be made available to emergency officials, even if it involved a trade secret, he said.

But others said waiting until an emergency to release that information would be too late to prepare an adequate response.

Megan Rhyne of the nonprofit Virginia Coalition for Open Government opposed the bill, saying public health oversight requires access to public information.

She pointed to the case of Flint, Michigan, where independent researchers helped expose the public health crisis over lead-tainted water, which led to criminal charges against a number of public officials.

The committee's vote on the measure was 4-3. It now advances to the full House General Laws committee.

Did You Like this Article? Get All the Energy Industry News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to an email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now


Revolutionizing Asset Management in the Electric Power Industry

With the arrival of the Industrial Internet of Things, data is growing and becoming more accessib...

Shell Leverages Data to Transform from Reactive to Predictive Operations

This 6-page report describes how Shell engaged in a massive project with OSIsoft to transform the...

Selection, Use, Care and Maintenance of FR Clothing

For industries operating in an inherently dangerous environment, the importance of selecting the ...

Evolution or Revolution: IT / OT convergence means a world of possibilities

The oil and gas industry is experiencing a rapid paradigm shift in regards to digital transformat...

Latest PennEnergy Jobs

PennEnergy Oil & Gas Jobs