After reading the recent Billings Gazette article titled “Former EPA expert: States can control fracking rules,” I felt compelled to write in and clear the record.
In 2011, the Legislature considered a bill requiring chemical disclosure of hazardous fracking fluids, landowner notification of the fracking procedure, and disclosure of chemicals in a medical emergency. After assurances from the Board of Oil and Gas Conservation that they would develop rules on the issue, the bill was killed.
The BOGC did undertake rule-making on this issue but they didn’t listen to the public on what rules should be in place. Out of the 220 public comments that were received, 200 of them were in favor of disclosing chemicals that the industry wants to keep as “trade secrets.”
Unfortunately, the BOGC ignored the public. Montana’s new rules publicly disclose only a handful of chemicals. The vast majority – many of them very toxic – remain cloaked in secrecy. This secrecy has been a huge problem for landowners in other states whose water wells suddenly became dangerously toxic after fracking operations move in nearby. Proving the cause is nearly impossible when the chemicals are kept secret – with the government’s blessing.
In the end, the states do have the power to create fracking rules, but whether the state will listen to the people and require complete transparency is another question. So far, we are not faring well in Montana.