Chalk it up to the oil boom.
As America seeks to produce more of its own energy, a dominant technology has emerged in an effort to extract oil and gas from our existing plays, like the Eagle Ford Shale and Barnett Shale oil fields in Texas, and both landowners and oil companies (and oil and gas workers) see that there is money to be made.
“Hydrofracking,” short for hydraulic fracturing, is a process in which drillers combine water and sand and chemicals to fracture tough shale rock layers, getting those fossil fuels to flow.
As Matthew Tresaugue and John MacCormack report for the Houston Chronicle, an estimated 6,000 oil and gas wells employ fracking.
On February 1, the state began requiring energy companies to disclose the chemicals they use. So far, 4,200 companies have posted those chemicals on FracFocus, an online registry of well sites, and the publicly-available information is hoped to quell fears about the type of chemicals that might be harming the environment and local residents.
But no one seems to have access to a complete list of ingredients; indeed, oil companies are not required to list every single thing they use in their processes. In other words, companies are allowed to cite “trade secrets.”
And the chemical/water/sand “cocktails” used in fracking vary from well site to well site. Even scientists admit to not knowing whether some combination of chemicals might interact in ways that could lead to groundwater contamination or other problems.
In fact, no one seems to be concerned. As Tresaugue and MacCormack report, some landowners in the Eagle Ford Shale don’t appear worried: “If they were using dangerous chemicals it would be an issue,” Jim Byrd, a Dimmit County landowner, was quoted as saying. “But I don’t know that they are.”