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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fracking chemicals won’t stay secret much longer: Wyoming Supreme Court rejects industry’s justification of secrecy surrounding chemicals injected underground

Hydrofracking Overspray

by Jacob Chamberlain, Common Dreams, March 14, 2014

The concoction of chemicals used in the oil and gas drilling process known as ‘fracking’ may not be kept a “trade secret” for much longer, following a ruling by the Wyoming Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The plaintiffs in the case, the Powder River Basin Resource Council and other groups concerned about the controversial drilling technique, said the Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission should not be able to withhold the types of chemicals it injects into the ground during the process, which have been known to contaminate groundwater.

On Wednesdaythe court rejected an earlier ruling from the District Court in Casper that allowed the industry to keep those chemicals hidden from public knowledge, sending it back to the District Court for reconsideration.

The Wyoming Supreme Court held that the Oil and Gas Commission has to justify its use of a trade secrets exemption rule, which it has used to hide the fracking chemicals ingredients.

“We’re pleased the Court recognized that the Oil and Gas Commission has to fully and rationally justify its use of trade secrets exemptions before it can hide fracking chemical information from public review,” stated Marilyn Ham, Resource Council Board Member from Laramie County, Wyoming. “We’re looking forward to the next stage of the case and hopefully to getting better information out to the public on what chemicals are used in fracking operations.

“It is important for public health and safety that citizens have timely access to what chemicals are used in fracking operations on and near our land,” stated Kristi Mogen, Resource Council Board Member who lives near fracking operations in Converse County, Wyoming. “We applaud Powder River Basin Resource Council for their hard work in bringing this case and for their dedication to empowering the residents of Wyoming.”

“The Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed that the public’s right to know is paramount under state law. If fracking operators don’t want to reveal what chemicals they use, they will have to prove that the chemicals are trade secrets, which means they shouldn’t be able to capriciously keep secrets from the public about dangerous chemicals,” said Katherine O’Brien, an attorney with Earthjustice, which represents the plaintiffs. “We will continue the fight in the trial court to ensure that the identity of fracking chemicals—which threaten the water supplies that communities depend upon—cannot be kept secret from the public.

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