Tuesday, December 06, 2016 by environews
Rich in natural resources, Montana is becoming the new stomping ground for fracking, a practice that involves the high-pressure injection of chemical-laden water into rock formations deep underground, releasing oil and gas reserves that were previously unreachable.
Though it has essentially freed America from its reliance on the Middle East for fossil fuels, fracking remains controversial for a number of reasons, primarily due to its adverse health and environmental effects.
Fracking is strongly linked to water contamination, as the barrage of toxic chemicals injected deep underground sometimes make their way into groundwater and eventually into people’s wells. Weak regulations are mostly to blame, as well as trade secret safeguards that allow Big Oil to withhold information from the public about the toxicity of their chemical mixtures.
Luckily for Montanans, state law allows citizens to petition regulatory agencies including the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation to enact policy changes that protect the public from harmful industrial processes, such as fracking.
Utilizing their Constitutional rights, a coalition of property owners, environmentalists and public health advocates recently petitioned the oil and gas board to disclose information to citizens about the chemicals used in fracking, reports eNews Park Forest.
Represented by the non-profit environmental law firm Earthjustice and led by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Montana Environmental Information Center, the coalition asked the board to implement “common-sense changes” that give Montanans, particularly those who live or farm near drilling sites, access to information about the chemicals.
This would allow individuals adversely affected by fracking to better protect their health, property and surrounding environment.
“Montanans have the right to know what is being pumped into the ground around their homes, farms, and ranches,” said Katherine O’Brien, an attorney for Earthjustice who drafted the petition on behalf of the coalition.
“There is no reason why Montanans should have less access to basic information about the potentially harmful chemicals used in fracking than their neighbors in Wyoming.”
Although the oil and gas board already requires fracking operators to disclose information about which chemicals they’re using, the rules, which appear crafted to favor the industry, have two major flaws.
The first is that citizens are not told specifically which fracking chemicals are used until the job is complete, drawing immense frustration from people living and working nearby. This significantly reduces their “ability to assess the risks to their health and property and conduct effective baseline testing of their water supplies.”
Secondly, Big Oil is allowed to keep chemical information private under trade secret protections, which has proven to be one of the biggest road blocks for scientists attempting to understand the health and environmental impacts related to fracking chemicals.
Scientists say that almost nothing is known about one-third of fracking chemicals. However, eight of them are proven toxic to wildlife, while others are known human carcinogens.
Some ingredients found in fracking include sand, gelling agents and biocides, used to kill bacteria responsible for corroding well casings.
“Unlike in Wyoming, Montana’s rules do not provide for any state oversight of trade secret claims to ensure they are valid. These loopholes in the disclosure rules unfairly deprive Montanans of important chemical information and violate the public’s right to know and right to a clean and healthful environment under the Montana Constitution,” reports eNews.
“What’s the point of a fracking chemical disclosure rule that allows the oil and gas industry to keep the chemicals they use secret?” asked Amanda Jahshan with NRDC.
“Montanans have a right to know what chemicals are being blasted underground in their own backyards, alongside their drinking water. Transparency is critical to protecting public health and our communities.”