Full Title: Legal Fractures in Chemical Disclosure Laws: Why the Voluntary Chemical Disclosure Registry FracFocus Fails as a Regulatory Compliance Tool
Author(s): Kate Onscnik, Margaret Holden and Alexa Shasteen
Publisher(s): Harvard Law School, Environmental Law Program
Publication Date: 4/2013



In April 2011, a voluntary chemical disclosure registry was launched for companies developing unconventional oil and gas well. Two years later, eleven states direct or allow well operators and service companies to report their chemical use to this online registry: FracFocus. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has also proposed adopting FracFocus as the reporting method for companies fracturing wells on federal and tribal lands.

When first announced, FracFocus held promise as a positive response to public concern about chemical use, storage, and disposal at well sites. The concept of a centralized, on-line registry appeals to under-resourced agencies, since it offers them the ability to delegate data gathering to a third party, and promises transparency by posting some chemical information online. However, our evaluation of FracFocus suggests that reliance on the registry as a regulatory compliance tool is misplaces or premature.

In its current form, FracFocus is not an acceptable regulatory compliance method for chemical disclosures. The registry’s shortcomings – and opportunities for improvement – fail into three categories: 1) Timing of Disclosures, 2) Substance of Disclosures, and 3) Nondisclosures.