NATURAL GAS:

Database discloses ingredients of fracking fluids

A new national database debuted yesterday that outlines the ingredients of the fluid used in hydraulic fracturing.

The website is sponsored by the Ground Water Protection Council, the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Energy Department.

"Our organizations have a responsibility to keep the public informed," said Mike Smith, executive director of the compact commission. "We see this site as a step forward, and we expect it will evolve even more in the future."

Hydraulic fracturing, a technique used to extract oil and gas trapped in shale formations, involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals underground to open pathways for oil and gas to flow.

Currently, the list is not comprehensive. In Wyoming, for example, three of the state's wells -- and the ingredients used in their fracking fluid -- are included.

Last year, Wyoming approved regulations requiring companies that practice hydraulic fracturing disclose the makeup of the chemicals they use.

"We encourage every other producer and their respective service company partners to enthusiastically embrace this approach," said Aubrey McClendon, Chesapeake Energy Corp.'s CEO, in a media release. Chesapeake is one of the 24 companies registered as a participant on the site.

Some fear that disclosure is the first step toward widespread acceptance of a practice they say will pollute groundwater and cause other undesirable environmental effects.

"Our concern is that just focusing on disclosure allows the real issue of requiring prevention of contamination or harm to slip through the cracks and be ignored," said Jill Morrison of the Powder River Basin Resource Council, a landowners group. "If we focus our attention solely on disclosure, we are diverted from the real issue of protection from contamination" (Jeremy Fugleberg, Casper [Wyo.] Star-Tribune, April 12). -- PK