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Alaska regulators gather input on fracking disclosure rules

Margaret BaumanThe Cordova Times

The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is being asked to issue hydraulic fracturing regulations that require oil companies to provide more information about chemicals that have the potential to contaminate nearby land and water.

The request during the April 4 meeting of the commission in Anchorage came from a coalition of 15 Alaska and national conservation and tribal organizations. The commission was hearing comments on proposed changes to regulations on hydraulic fracturing operations and related information that must be reported to the public.

Cathy Foerster, an AOGCC commissioner, noted that the commission also heard a number of other recommendations from industry and other entities, and expected to come out with finalized regulations in about 40 days.

Hydraulic fracturing has been used in Alaska's oil and gas fields for upwards of 40 years and about 25 percent of the wells on the North Slope and in Cook Inlet have been fractured, Foerster said. While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that material safety data sheets be filled out for any site where there is hydraulic fracturing going on, there is currently no requirement of full disclosure of fracturing chemicals and concentrations in place, she said.

The coalition's recommendations include full disclosure of fracturing chemicals and concentrations prior to fracturing operations to allow baseline water-quality testing, and expansion of the commission staff to maintain adequate oversight.

"People who own property or who live or subsist near hydraulic fracturing operations have a right to know, in advance, about the chemicals that will be used," said Lois Epstein, a licensed engineer and Arctic program director for The Wilderness Society. "We oppose trade secret protections at the expense of public and worker health."

The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Clean Air Task Force and Earthjustice were also among those supporting these disclosures.

The preceding article originally appeared in The Cordova Times and is reprinted here with permission. Contact Margaret Bauman with comments and suggestions at mbauman(at)thecordovatimes.com.