According to a recently released Harvard Law School report, the website FracFocus.org “fails as a regulatory compliance tool” for energy companies developing oil and gas wells using hydraulic fracturing. FracFocus, an online national hydraulic fracturing chemical registry managed by the Ground Water Protection Council and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, was established to provide the public with access to reported chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing within their area.
Currently 11 of the 18 states that require disclosure of hydraulic fracturing chemicals allow companies to use FracFocus as their reporting method. FracFocus was also proposed by the Bureau of Land Management as a method of reporting fracking chemicals used on federal and tribal lands.
The Harvard Law School report identified shortcomings in three areas of FracFocus:
- Insufficient information on the timeliness of submitted chemical disclosures;
- Insufficient substance of disclosures, and no state-set minimum reporting standards;
- A lack of a sound definition for a trade secret regime, resulting in inconsistent trade secret assertions.
The Ground Water Protection Council defended FracFocus, stating, “We believe the research done by the Harvard team fails to reflect the true capabilities of the FracFocus system and misrepresents the system’s relationship to state regulatory programs” [EnergyWire]. Other supporters of FracFocus have been highly critical of the Harvard report.
What is your view of FracFocus and the criticisms levied against it by the Harvard Law School report? What are the costs and benefits of using FracFocus as a regulatory compliance tool?