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Senate Discusses Fracking Disclosure Bill

A Senate committee heard testimony this morning from Halliburton and others on a bill that would require drilling companies to disclose the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing. The bill has been left pending until the House takes a final vote on its version.

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The Senate Natural Resources Committee heard testimony this morning on a bill that would require drilling companies to disclose the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing.

"My understanding is that no other state in the nation has a disclosure requirement as comprehensive," said state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, who sponsored the bill. "I think it would set Texas up as a model for the whole country."

The House gave tentative approval to a similar bill on Wednesday in a voice vote and may give it final approval today or Friday. The Senate bill has been left pending in committee until the House takes a final vote.

A Halliburton representative testified in favor of the bill, which he said does "as good a job as it can do," given its balancing act in protecting "trade secrets" by allowing drillers to hold back some information. Hydraulic fracturing involves shooting a mix of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to break up rock and extract gas. Companies like Halliburton each have their own recipes for the chemicals involved and want to protect some of that information.

The committee's chairman, state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, had hoped other companies that make fracking fluid (as Halliburton does) would testify, but they did not speak up. "Nobody wants to raise their hands from other fracking companies," Fraser said. "Damn."

Representatives of three environmental groups testified for the bill, though. Cyrus Reed, of the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club, said that the definition of who could challenge trade secrets protection "should be expanded to anyone within a mile of a well shaft." Currently, in addition to state agencies, only the owner of a property where a gas well is being drilled, or the owner of an adjacent property, could issue a challenge, which would then be considered by the attorney general's office. Environmentalists are also concerned that trade secrets protections allow companies to conceal too much.

Deb Hastings, a representative of the Texas Oil and Gas Association, testified that the bill would mean that "all intentionally added chemicals will be publicly disclosed." Her organization, she added, "believe[s] Texas is better suited than the federal government to regulate hydraulic fracturing."

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