Journalism in the Public Interest

ALEC and ExxonMobil Push Loopholes in Fracking Chemical Disclosure Rules

The conservative nonprofit group ALEC has pushed industry-backed model legislation that lets oil and gas companies muddy the waters on disclosure of fracking chemicals.

A Consol Energy gas drilling rig outside Waynesburg, Pa. (Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images)

One of the key controversies about fracking is the chemical makeup of the fluid that is pumped deep into the ground to break apart rock and release natural gas. Some companies have been reluctant to disclose what's in their fracking fluid. Scientists and environmental advocates argue that, without knowing its precise composition, they can't thoroughly investigate complaints of contamination.

Disclosure requirements vary considerably from state to state, as ProPublica recently charted. In many cases, the rules have been limited by a "trade secrets" provision under which companies can claim that a proprietary chemical doesn't have to be disclosed to regulators or the public.

One apparent proponent of the trade secrets caveat? The American Legislative Exchange Council, better known as ALEC, a nonprofit group that brings together politicians and corporations to draft and promote conservative, business-friendly legislation. ALEC has been in the spotlight recently because of its support of controversial laws like Florida's "Stand Your Ground" provision.

This weekend, as part of a story on ALEC's political activity, The New York Times noted that the group recently adopted "model legislation" on fracking chemical disclosure, based on a bill passed in Texas last year. According to The Times, the model bill was "sponsored within ALEC" by ExxonMobil, which runs a major oil and gas operation through its subsidiary, XTO Energy. The advocacy group Common Cause, which provided the documents on ALEC's lobbying efforts to The Times, describes model legislation, in many cases identifying by name the company that proposed it to ALEC's task forces.

ALEC has recently removed its list of model bills from its main website, and did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for XTO Energy confirmed that the company is a member of ALEC, but he did not provide details on the company's involvement with the disclosure bill.

The spokesman said ExxonMobil supports "full disclosure of the ingredients and additives in hydraulic fracturing fluids," but added that when vendors request it, ExxonMobil has "respected the trade secret status of their products." Last year, the company began voluntarily uploading chemical disclosures to FracFocus, a clearinghouse website run by the Groundwater Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.

In a recent blog post, ALEC claimed that legislators in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, New York and Ohio have introduced versions of its model bill, but many of those states vary in the level of disclosure required and how they handle the trade secrets provision. Laws in 11 states require at least partial disclosure, and the Bureau of Land Management recently drafted disclosure guidelines for drilling on federal land.

These laws have been relatively well-received by environmental advocates, though the trade secrets issue remains a concern for some. In Ohio, for example, proprietary chemicals don't have to be disclosed to regulators or the public. In Pennsylvania, they are disclosed to regulators, and the public can request information on them from the state Department of Environmental Protection on a case-by-case basis.

The Texas law, which ALEC cites in the post as its template, codifies the trade secrets exemption, and who can challenge it:




Otherwise, Texas' law requires that companies post disclosure forms for each completed well on the FracFocus site. They must disclose all chemicals but only report the concentrations of those that are hazardous. The law also requires that the companies give the total volume of water used in fracking.

The Environmental Protection Agency cannot regulate fracking in order to protect groundwater, because in 2005 Congress exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act, which controls how industries inject substances underground.

According to ALEC's blog, the model disclosure legislation is designed to promote "responsible resource production" and "aims to preempt the promulgation of duplicative, burdensome federal regulations" from the EPA, in particular. ALEC has consistently opposed any federal control over fracking. In 2009, the group adopted a "Resolution to Retain State Authority Over Hydraulic Fracturing."

the loopholes need to be closed and have all information about fracking bee reported

Stephanie Palmer

April 24, 2012, 2:55 p.m.

ALEC is not a conservative group, and I’m tired of their advertising themselves in that way.  ALEC is a group of rich folks and state legislators when the taxpayers pay their entrance fees, created specifically for the purpose of creating a master class of the very rich and influential companies in order to become more powerful and wealthier. Not one of its members holds any allegiance to this country or its citizens. It’s all about money and power.  I have plenty of friends who describe themselves as conservative and they abhor what ALEC does. So let’s stop calling them conservative. They are merely the lowest of the low trying to satisfy themselves by gaining wealth and power at the cost of all of us and our country.

In Pennsylvania, in order for a doctor to find out which hazardous chemicals have poisoned one of their patients, they must sign a confidentiality agreement with the involved driller. This is in Act 13 that passed the state legislature recently. How can the state government put the health of their residents in jeopardy in order to make profits for energy companies easier?
This recent ALEC legislation is just another way for big energy to make money without concern for the people who live in proximity to the wells. Where is it going to stop? When Pennsylvania becomes a toxic industrial wasteland, no doubt. Tom Corbet and his ilk are more concerned with lining their pockets at the expense of their constituents than making sure we are safe.

There is room for progressive companies to lead in the adoption of best practices for fracking. And I’ll bet the standard THOSE companies are willing to work for is more protective and transparent than what ALEC & ExxonMobil / XTO want. Read more at

“Trade secret” would be funny if it wasn’t so depressing.  It’s plainly impossible that their competition would gain a competitive edge by knowing what they’re spewing into the ground.

It is likely that revealing the information would damage their business, however, as it’d be legally indefensible, though.  And the law obviously shouldn’t be protecting that.

Anyway, I gotta go write some “model legislation” about how the cops can’t check if my car is speeding.  My speed on the road is a trade secret, don’t ya know.  My income is, too, so watch out, IRS!

My reply to John they can test the grounds and get them to stop fine them and jail them. By laws. Where have you been in the stone age. I have taken alot of companies down schools and attorneys and judges. So please be honest and if you don’t care find a new site . You have know idea what these people really do ,do you?! If you don’t then learn and talk to me then. Some of us care and want our kids to be able to have decent drinking water and so do we. Also where there is a will there is a way always. What you wrote is funny it shows ignorance. I am a law student/ counceling student raising 3 kids on my own. I have more morals and so do my children . So please next time think before you write. We try and help people to make this a better world What you wrote notified the cops and IRS I am friends with both. I also do taxes on the side. Ignorance is a virtue.

It IS our business.  Require them to disclose what they’re putting in the ground.

I think that ALEC should be given a fair chance and prove that the drinking water that has supposedly been effected by these fraking chems is safe. What I propose is that ALEC and some of these CEOs lead by example and spend two years only drinking water that is unfiltered from locations where such chems have been used. If they are brave enough to do that then they have my support.

If they are made from common off-the-shelf components, how can they be proprietary?

The intellectual impotents live on!!  Did you know that ‘Frac Water’ is cleaner and safer than Wash. DC’s drinking water?

This is deliberate poisoning of a section of our nation and the people who live around it, isn’t it. And they are protecting their terrorism and murder?

Fracking fluids contain highly salinated “flowback waters” when they return to the surface. Unpotable water that otherwise never would have reached the surface. Bad. More waste. Oh did I mention that they Fracking with isoproponol and hydrochloric acid? Wake up kiddies, its all about the money and has been for some time now. Read some studies. Columbia did a good one. Fracking is doing serious harm and if you don’t agree, then you have not done your research.

Peabody Energy Corp Lobbyists

Aliferis, Scott D  
K&L Gates, LLP   Lobbyist

Dey, Margo  
K&L Gates, LLP  

Evans, Michael  
K&L Gates, LLP  
Lobbyist, also lobbyist for Sapphire Energy

Heck, Patrick G  
K&L Gates, LLP  
Lobbyist, , also lobbyist for Sapphire Energy

Peckingpaugh, Timothy “Tim” 
K&L Gates, LLP  
Lobbyist - also lobbyist for Environmental Defense Fund, NextEnergy, and Sapphire Energy

May 2009 - T Boone Pickens buys Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., Questar Corp., Alpha Natural Resources Inc., CONSOL Energy Inc., Massey Energy Company, Halliburton Company, Schlumberger Ltd., Foster Wheeler Ltd., Fluor Corp., Anadarko Petroleum Corp.,

SELLS Peabody Energy Corp., Denbury Resources Inc. during the 3-months ended 03/31/2009, according to the most recent filings of his investment company, BP Capital. T Boone Pickens owns 17 stocks with a total value of $9 million. These are the details of the buys and sells.—gas-corp-questar-corp-alpha-natural-resources-inc-sells-peabody-energy-corp-denbury-resources-inc

Donna, can you clarify what I wrote—regarding the absurdity of allowing Trade Secret doctrine to be invoked—convinced you that…I’ll be honest, I couldn’t follow your message at all except that it was directed at me specifically and pointlessly (and inappropriately) insulting.  Hence clarification.

Not to sink to your level, but I’d expect at least a coherent attack from a student of law and counseling, especially when you want me to “think before I write.”

Solve the problems quickly and easily. If the fracking companies claim their solutions are “safe”, simply have the ALL corporate officers AND their family members EACH drink a glass of those chemicals every day. They are “safe”—right? We will find out VERY quickly just “how safe” those chemicals really are…..

The oil and gas industry has historically (until these recent developments) been regulated on a state level. The industry has seen without alacrity what has happened to other industries (coal and chemical) under the gentle persuasion of Federal mandated rules and regulations (NPDES, RCRA, UIC, etc.). The idea of a single well permit was inherent in oil and gas operations. The state issued permit allowed the immediate range of motion needed for efficient operation. The time lag (months if not years) in dealing with EPA scenarios is not a workable solution for the immediacy required in drilling operations. Some states made some accommodation to the ascendency of EPA dictates, some did not. The industry could see the writing on the wall. The early RCRA requirement that pit flow back and pit wastes in particular be studied (and regulated) was quietly disposed of a few years ago. This probably made it apparent to the major oil and gas lobby that some drastic action to pull EPA’s teeth was necessary. Hence the change in the law in 2005 otherwise known as the Chaney or Halliburton bill occurred.

Now the belated point of all of this is that the dichotomy should strike some in the media. The dichotomy is that for all the bleating about state’s rights and lets get rid of big government - who is it the oil and gas industry runs to to get exempted from its overreaching, the Federal Government - of course! And, then for good measure to sew up the loose ends they try to get the fracking bill mentioned in this article passed in the major oil and gas producing states. The oddity is, and the new twist is that there has not been anything like this type of activity in the Appalachian or middle eastern part of the USA in years, even in the earliest days of discovery.  The industry had the last 20 years to do something about the effects of horizontal drilling. They knew it was coming. They were commonly doing it in the sourthwest 20 years ago. The lack of good conservation laws and updated state environmental approaches could have prevented most of the current uproar. Not very good planning.

Theodore Wirth

April 26, 2012, 1:02 p.m.

Reading about sponsored exploitation of loopholes for the sake of pollution-for-proft makes me psychologically ill. If these evil consortiums are not stopped, I will become physically ill as well.

Why can’t energy companies use their vast fortunes to develop renewable energy products? Answer: ROI is not quick enough and the level of profitability cannot be predetermined, packaged and pre-sold.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:

Fracking: Gas Drilling’s Environmental Threat

The promise of abundant natural gas is colliding with fears about water contamination.

The Story So Far

The country’s push to find clean domestic energy has zeroed in on natural gas, but cases of water contamination have raised serious questions about the primary drilling method being used. Vast deposits of natural gas, large enough to supply the country for decades, have brought a drilling boom stretching across 31 states. The drilling technique being used, called hydraulic fracturing, shoots water, sand and toxic chemicals into the ground to break up rock and release the gas.

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