New NRDC Report on Fracking Disclosure Reveals Gaps in Proposed NY Rules

NRDC has released a new report today comparing state disclosure requirements for gas development using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, across the US.  The report evaluates the states’ rules for disclosure of chemicals used in fracking fluids, water usage, wastewater generation, and how and where fracking occurs, and sets forth guidelines for effective disclosure.  It concludes that, at present, no state has an adequate set of disclosure rules – this, notwithstanding the many claims made by states to have “the best” rule(s) in the country.

The report identifies New York as being one of a handful of states where fracking is currently occurring that does not have a disclosure rule on the books.  Although, as the report notes – and as almost anyone who follows this issue knows – there is currently a de facto moratorium on so-called “high-volume” fracking, gas development using lower volumes of fracking fluids (less than 300,000 gallons) has been allowed in the state for a number of years and is currently ongoing.

The current moratorium on high-volume fracking remains in place while the state evaluates the environmental impacts of proposed new fracking and determines whether, and if so how, to proceed.

The proposed disclosure requirements for high-volume fracking set forth in the state’s last draft environmental review document, which was issued in September of last year, are analyzed in detail in the report (see Tables VI-X here).  That analysis reveals that although New York is proposing some important new disclosure requirements (e.g., pre-fracking disclosure of chemicals, distance of proposed well from water and other resources), many serious gaps remain.

For example, there is no requirement to give nearby landowners advance notice of fracking, to disclose a final list of additives actually used in a completed frack job, or to provide designated trade secret information to health care providers.  Further, although operators are required to keep records of many types of critical information about where and how frack jobs are performed, and to provide that information to state regulators upon request, there is no requirement to disclose it to the public.  And, troublingly, none of these proposed rules would apply to so-called “low-volume” fracking of the sort already on-going in New York.

Of course, New York’s review is not yet complete, and there is still an opportunity for the state to fill these crucial gaps.  We hope that – if New York decides to approve final rules for new fracking – it will ensure that those rules provide for full and complete public disclosure of all critical information.