In a move reportedly designed to win back the "public trust," a major supplier to the gas and oil industry has announced it will begin disclosing the secret chemicals used by its clients for the high-pressure drilling technique known as fracking.
Critics, however, say that though the possible end of secrecy is welcome, such disclosures will do nothing to make the inherent dangers of fracking go away.
"Chemical disclosure is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the controversies surrounding fracking." —Kate Fried, FWW
In an email to Common Dreams, water quality expert at Food & Water Watch Kate Fried responded to the news by saying the disclosure of the chemicals "is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the controversies surrounding fracking."
On the surface, the announcement by the Houston-based company Baker Hughes—first reported by EnergyWire on Thursday—appeared to answer the repeated demand calling for the industry to reveal the full spectrum of chemicals used in the process. According to a large and growing body of evidence (see here, here, and here) the use of numerous chemicals in fracking—also known as hydraulic fracturing—compounds the contamination of groundwater, drinking wells, and surface areas in and around drilling sites.
Dr. Bernard Goldstein, the former dean of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, told the Associated Press, "This really good news." He added that he hoped other industry members would follow, calling the move "a step in the right direction."
Other reporting, however, was quick to point out the caveats contained in the Baker Hughes announcement, which made clear the disclosure of the chemicals would only take place "where accepted by our customers and relevant governmental authorities."
And for critics like Fried, the possibility of disclosures are notable but do nothing to end the real dangers of fracking. Short of a national moratorium on the practice, she said, nothing will be seen as a complete victory.
"Knowing what chemicals are pumped underground doesn't prevent the accidents that can contaminate people's water and air," Fried explained to Common Dreams, "nor does it compensate for the economic, social and environmental disruptions that fracking imposes upon communities and consumers."
"The only real way to make fracking safe, is to ban it altogether," she said.
This video created by SAFENC, a North Carolina anti-fracking group also calling for a ban on the practice, presents much of what is known about the chemical makeup used by the industry and highlights that simply knowing the destructive and harmful properties of these toxins has so far done little, if anything, to slow the push for additional fracking nationwide: