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US chemical manufacturers lobby for fracking formula secrecy

The US chemical industry is lobbying the Environmental Protection Agency to allow it to protect trade secrets by not requiring companies to reveal substances used in hydraulic fracturing, according to comments submitted to an agency's consultation (CW 9 May 2014).

Protecting that information is vital, the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (Socma) says, because "it can take many years of research and development to launch a product… balance is needed between transparency and the protection of trade secrets."

Socma supports a compromise, where companies would use "structurally-descriptive generic names if a specific name would potentially reveal a trade secret."

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) filed comments as well, arguing that state regulation of hydraulic fracturing is more appropriate and that there are already voluntary reporting initiatives in place. The EPA is seeking additional information about the fluids, which are injected into the ground during the extraction of oil and natural gas.

"Hydraulic fracturing is a highly complex and competitive industry where trade secrets are critical assets," the ACC says. "The release of chemical identities or applications would jeopardise the value of the intellectual property by providing information to competitors, customers and suppliers."

Environmental activists say the issue is crucial, as energy companies are injecting undisclosed chemicals into the earth which can eventually make their way into drinking supplies.

The NGO the Environmental Defense Fund also filed comments saying "mandatory reporting by all manufacturers and processors of [hydraulic fracturing] chemicals should be required," subject to the Toxic Substances Control Act's small manufacturer or processor exemption.

The environmental advocacy group adds it "does not believe that EPA should pursue voluntary approaches for reporting by any parties for which TSCA provides authority to require reporting."

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