Environmentalists are suing to stop a proposed Montana law that requires hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, companies disclose chemicals used in the process.
The proposed bill has passed Montana’s Senate and is currently working its way through the lower legislative house, clearing an initial vote Monday 70 to 30. The proposed legislation is intended to create “a fair process for disclosure of fracturing fluids to facilitate transparency, while protecting valuable trade secrets and allowing well owners, operators, and service companies to protect their right to obtain an advantage over competitors.”
Even though the bill would start requiring fracking companies to disclose their chemicals, environmentalists filed a lawsuit to stop it. Backed by local environmental groups and the nationwide Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on behalf of a handful of landowners, the lawsuit was filed with the explicit goal of stopping the law to keep the disclosure issue relevant for environmentalists.
“If this legislation passes, it’s potentially going to prevent meaningful disclosure because the board can point to the Legislature and say ‘we’re preempted from doing anything because the Legislature acted and now there’s a law in place,’” Derf Johnson, clean water program director of the Montana Environmental Information Center, told The Missoulian.
Environmentalists behind the lawsuit petitioned the state’s conservation board last July to require fracking chemicals to be disclosed as part of the application process for drilling a well at least 45 days before fracking occurs. The board rejected that petition in September, calling it “factually erroneous, unsupported and irrational.”
Environmentalists wanted a much stricter bill requiring the mandatory baseline testing of fracking wells, alleging that fracking could potentially contaminate drinking water. Scientific studies from regulatory bodies, academics, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) all agree the’s no evidence fracking contaminates drinking water.
Even studies financed by environmentalists found fracking had no effect on water quality. A three-year study by the University of Cincinnati, published last February and financed by environmentalists, found fracking couldn’t contaminate groundwater.
“Our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results,” Amy Townsend-Small, the University of Cincinnati study’s lead researcher, told Newsweek last April. “We haven’t seen anything to show that wells have been contaminated by fracking.”
Fracking earthquake myths from environmentalists frequently confuse fracking with wastewater disposal. These myths are so widespread that the USGS actually maintains a “Myths and Misconceptions” section of its website to debunk them.
Environmentalists responded to these studies, saying, “millions of Americans know that fracking contaminates groundwater and for the EPA to report any differently only proves that the greatest contamination from the industry comes from its influence and ownership of our government.”
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