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Activist Group Recycles False Narrative On Fracking Fluid Disclosures

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An activist group is recycling its faulty claims and scare tactics around chemicals used in natural gas development as it shifts its anti-fracking efforts from Pennsylvania to Ohio.

This year’s attempt by the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PPI) to resurrect debunked talking points about fracking fluid chemical exposure – which follows its similar report last year aimed at banning fracking in the Delaware River Basin argues that Ohio residents “may be unknowingly exposed to toxic secret drilling and fracking chemicals.”

These issues already are covered by state laws.

It’s an argument that PPI has made time and again, but recycling baseless concerns doesn’t make them true. In fact, many of the issues raised by PPI’s Ohio report were addressed in 2012 through the state’s Senate Bill 315.

As the Ohio Oil and Gas Association’s Matt Hammond told the Columbus Dispatch:

 “Anti-oil and gas groups push this false narrative that we don’t care. We do care; this is not just where we work, this is home, and that is why safety always comes first. We have and will continue to advocate for laws and policies like Senate Bill 315, that make Ohio the toughest, fairest and most transparent regulatory framework in the country.”

S.B. 315 specifies that records of the amount, concentration, and chemical composition of fracking fluids be made available to state regulators and officials, as well as physicians, should a need arise. Nothing in the bill prevents people who need the information from getting access to it, so long as they follow the same state and federal trade secret protections used in a wide range of industries.

It’s laws like this that PPI ignores as it cranks out another report raising worries about fracking.

The trouble is, PPI never shows that fracking chemicals—let alone those it calls “secret” because they’re protected as proprietary—cause health or safety problems. Instead, the report presumes that any exposure would result in health harms and then tries to suggest ways such exposure would occur. The result is a conclusion studded with words like “could,” “might,” and “likely.” The group sums up its logic:

“Fracking chemical risks, including risks from secret chemicals, have likely grown in Ohio because of increases in the amount of drilling.”

However, as OOGA and others point out, concerns about chemical exposure through fracking have already been addressed by the industry, which operates under strict regulations in Ohio and elsewhere.

It’s no secret.

Throughout the report, PPI points to the chemicals as being “secret,” ignoring the fact that even fracking additives labeled proprietary trade secrets are still disclosed to key parties, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state environmental agencies, first responders, and medical staff upon request.

In fact, the report is forced to admit that state law already includes numerous chemical reporting requirements. For instance, Ohio law requires well owners to disclose to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources or to the department and FracFocus, a publicly accessible database, fracking chemicals added to a well within 60 days of completion.

These same agencies reported this summer that they had received relatively few health complaints from the shale industry—less than five per year – and research by the University of Cincinnati finding that air and groundwater are not being impacted by nearby oil and natural gas development.

Conclusion

PPI’s conclusion presents a list of policy recommendations. Most of them are already covered through S.B. 315, except the last one, which argues that Ohio should give communities the right to stop oil and gas development in their area. Including such an argument that has been repeatedly and overwhelmingly rejected by courts and voters shows this report’s true intention: It’s merely another agenda-driven attempt at stopping the energy revolution that is revitalizing Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the broader region.

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