11/23/2011 05:04 pm ET Updated Dec 13, 2011

Colorado Fracking Fluid Rule Passes; Mandates Chemical Disclosure, Though 'Trade Secrets' Loophole Remains (UPDATE)

In August, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper told oil and gas workers to expect heavier regulations on fracking fluid in the state by the end of the year. Speaking at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association conference, Hickenlooper said disclosing the contents of the fluid would bolster public trust in the industry.


Regulators have approved a new Colorado rule mandating the disclosure of fracking fluid contents. In what the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission described is a "reasonable and durable balance," a company can shield individual components of fluid as "trade secrets," but must explain why it has to be protected.

The policy also requires companies provide 48 hours notice prior to pumping chemicals in the ground, reports 9News.

KDVR adds that Anadarko Petroleum upwards of one billion barrels of oil in Northeast Colorado and has begun drilling tests just east of Aurora. Cities and local governments cannot regulate fracking or oil and gas wells.


Fracking fluid is used to displace oil and gas from formations deep underground. Critics contend the fluid contains carcinogens which pollute groundwater. Industry officials, meanwhile, insist the practice is safe but are unwilling to divulge the components of their fluids.

With the new discovery of an estimated 1 billion barrels of oil in Colorado, residents may welcome increased oversight in fracking practices. Colorado passed regulations in 2008 requiring companies maintain a list of chemicals used in their drilling processes. The list must be presented to healthcare workers and state regulators if requested after a workplace incident.

Some, however, believe the law does not go far enough. The Denver Post reports a loophole in legislation to expand frack-fluid disclosures could make the rule "worthless." Oil and gas drillers can hide a limitless number of fracking chemicals by deeming them "trade secrets."

Writes the Colorado Environmental Coalition:

While companies are technically required to tell us what's in their fracking fluid, they can avoid disclosing an unlimited number of chemicals simply by calling them "trade secrets." They don't have to justify or certify their trade secret claims, and no one is going to review them. So if they choose to avoid full disclosure, they get an automatic free pass.

According to FracFocus, an online chemical disclosure registry, a rulemaking hearing is scheduled for December 5.