April 19, 2014

Governor supports disclosing fracking chemicals; he should begin today

On Wednesday, Attorney General DeWine made news by declaring Ohio’s laws on fracking to be inadequate. Specifically, DeWine called for stiffer penalties for spills and other violations, mandatory public disclosure of all chemicals used in the fracking process and statutory authority for his office to act on behalf of landowners who are cheated by drillers.

What is perhaps even more newsworthy is that yesterday, Governor Kasich went on the record agreeing with the Attorney General—and with Innovation Ohio—that fracking chemicals should be disclosed to the public. From Thursday’s Gongwer report (subscription required):

Addressing one concern raised by the AG, Gov. Kasich said there is “no reason to keep secret what the fracking fluid is.” He added that the administration is working with stakeholders such as the Natural Resources Defense Council to make sure protections are in place.

Given what now appears to be widespread agreement that fracking chemicals should not be kept secret, we have to ask, why hasn’t the administration begun publishing the chemicals used at each well site at the time they are used? According to laws already on the books, drillers are required to disclose this information to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The Department, could, without further regulatory authority or rulemaking, simply include that information on its online database of oil and gas wells.

While we applaud the Governor’s strong statement on behalf of public disclosure, we are confused why action has not yet been taken. New wells are permitted and drilled on an almost daily basis, according to statistics released by ODNR. With existing statutory authority to gather the information and no laws requiring the information be kept secret, the Governor should order ODNR to make the information public immediately.