Oct 05, 2010

Ground Water Protection Council Calls for Disclosure of Chemicals in Shale Gas Exploration

Resolution calls for Web-based system that will help protect groundwater resources

The 20-member board of directors of the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) unanimously passed a resolution calling for complete disclosure of chemicals used during the hydraulic fracturing process, common in the exploration of shale gas.

In the resolution, the GWPC–a national nonprofit association consisting of state ground water regulatory agencies–joined to protect groundwater by implementing a Web-based system to obtain, store and publish information concerning chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process on a per-well basis.

“We are pleased the energy industry is voluntarily moving towards greater transparency when it comes to disclosing the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process. Even though the process consists mostly of water and sand, it is in the best interest of the public to publish the chemical compositions,” said Joseph Lee, board president from Pennsylvania. “Since the GWPC members are primarily state officials responsible for administering the underground injection control program established under the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act, we believe no one has more knowledge of ground water protection than our members.”

In announcing the passage of the resolution, Lee pointed to the GWPC’s Risk Based Data Management System (RBDMS) as the technology platform upon which the national chemical registry would be built. The RBDMS is already used by 25 state agencies charged with regulating and overseeing oil and gas activities. This system was developed by the GWPC under the guidance of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

“We know some energy companies have already voluntarily started to make their chemical compositions available on their websites,” Lee said. “Again, while we laud this effort, individual company reporting is not the most desirable long-term solution. We need a centralized, global site where regulators, companies and–most importantly–the public can come for reliable and current information on individual wells. And, while reporting would be voluntary, we have every reason to believe the majority of energy companies will respond favorably and actively participate in the program.”

Lee also noted that the GWPC has been working with the DOE to refine the idea of a state-based chemical disclosure system built on the RBDMS. “We are pleased with the positive reception at the DOE to this idea, and we are looking forward to working with our DOE colleagues on this project,” Lee said.

GWPC officials said they have already started to build the beta test site and expect to roll out the live site in the next six weeks.