FracFocus is a fraud

Fracking beyond law EIP

Last week a new report published by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) disclosed that between 2010 and July 2014, diesel was used in fracking operations at 351 wells by 33 different companies. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires a permit when operators intend to use diesel. None of the companies had obtained a permit.

Fracking Beyond the Law (by Mary Greene, EIP’s senior managing attorney) identified the top three states where operators violated the EPA ban on diesel in fracking:

  • 12,800 gallons used in Texas
  • 9,173 gallons used in Colorado
  • 4,800 gallons used in North Dakota

For his Daily Sentinel article, Study: Diesel used to frack in GarCo well [subscribers only],  Dennis Webb obtained spread sheets from the EIP showing that most of the Colorado violations occurred in Garfield County.

Most Colorado use of diesel and kerosene for hydraulic fracturing as documented in a new study was for one Garfield County well, the study’s data shows.

In addition, WPX Energy, the owner of 14 of the 16 wells where the study found such use in the state, says the use was mistakenly reported in the case of its wells and didn’t take place …

… According to a spreadsheet provided by the Environmental Integrity Project, all but about two gallons used in Colorado entailed use of diesel in a Halliburton frack fluid additive in just one well, fracked by PDC Energy west of Parachute in 2011. The well also accounted for all but about 3,000 gallons of all diesel/kerosene use by PDC in 12 wells altogether documented by the study.

PDC couldn’t be reached for comment after The Daily Sentinel received the spreadsheet Friday afternoon.

In 2013, the company sold its assets in Garfield County and elsewhere in western Colorado’s Piceance Basin to Caerus Oil and Gas, which is listed in state records as the owner of the well where diesel was used. Matthew Wurtzbacher, the company’s president and chief operating officer, said Friday he hadn’t been aware of the new study or its mention of the well. However, he said Caerus doesn’t use diesel or kerosene in fracking.

Two of the 16 Colorado wells identified in the report were fracked by WPX, and the spreadsheet showed 12 more as having been fracked by Williams. Williams eventually spun off its oil and gas exploration and production business into a separate company, WPX, which took ownership of Williams’ wells.

The new report found diesel use in 23 Williams wells altogether in Colorado and elsewhere.

‘MISTAKE’ CITED

WPX spokeswoman Susan Alvillar said Friday her company did an in-depth analysis involving the 23 wells once owned by Williams and the two other WPX wells after the new report came out. She said the analysis found that a vendor who was contracted to put the contents of the frack jobs into a reporting registry mistakenly entered the wrong ingredient for a corrosion inhibitor used in frack fluid.

“There’s no diesel or kerosene in the actual corrosion inhibitor that we really used. It’s just that the vendor made a mistake,” Alvillar said.

While WPX operates primarily in Garfield County, all of the Colorado WPX and Williams wells included in the report are in La Plata County …

The EPA’s only means of enforcement in drilling operations involves the use of diesel in fracking. However ProPublica’s in-depth article Report: Drillers Illegally Using Diesel Fuel to Frack, revealed that in spite of strict EPA regulations regarding diesel, Halliburton continues to produce and sell frack fluid that contains diesel.

…Yet energy companies have continued to produce fracking fluids containing diesel fuels. The Environmental Integrity Project’s report identified 14 well fracturing products – commercially called emulsifiers, dispersants, additives and solvents – sold by Halliburton that contain diesel fuels. Halliburton’s own safety data sheets for these products list diesel as a chemical in these products.

“Halliburton is working with state regulators and customers to be sure all [FracFocus] reports are accurate,” said Emily Mir, a spokeswoman for the company. Mir would not comment on whether Halliburton informs drillers that purchase its products that they are required to obtain a permit before diesel fuel can be used for fracking.

Without a doubt, the EIP report exposes industry’s blatant disregard for EPA regulations. But it also uncovered a major problem with FracFocus that has been underreported in the media. FracFocus is an online registry that allows companies to list the chemicals they use during fracking. At least 10 states, including Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania, mandate disclosures.

As of June, the EIP had identified a total of 497 wells that used diesel. But when they went to FracFocus for final verification of the numbers, they found that six operators had been allowed to remove the use of diesel from the disclosure data of 143 wells.

From the report, Fracking Beyond the Law:

…EIP purchased data from PIVOT Upstream Group, a Houston-based consulting firm that has taken the well-known FracFocus data and aggregated it into a searchable database that can be readily analyzed. Although PIVOT aggregates the data and packages it for sale, the firm retains copies of all of the disclosures it obtained through FracFocus and records the date on which each disclosure was collected.

Analysis of the PIVOT data by EIP revealed there were 465 wells fracked with one of the five CAS numbers identified in the February 2014 guidance at the time PIVOT collected the data. EIP’s subsequent verification of PIVOT’s data—which entailed entering each API well number and comparing PIVOT’s data to the current FracFocus disclosure—revealed that six operators, who collectively fracked 143 wells in 2011 and 2012, changed their FracFocus disclosures after PIVOT collected their data (PIVOT’s collection of these disclosures occurred mostly in June 2012, but a few were obtained in August and October 2012). In other words, the indication of diesel use had been removed from all 143 of these well disclosures.

But at some point between June and October 2012 (when PIVOT conducted its data collections), the six operators of these 143 wells reported the combined injection of 168,971 gallons of diesel fuel as defined by EPA in its February 2014 guidance. Yet searching FracFocus today, there is no way to discover that these companies ever had reported any diesel use. Curiously, all of these disclosures were changed after EPA issued the May 2012 draft guidance …

Upon further investigation it was discovered that FracFocus does not track changes to disclosures. “What’s problematic is that this is an industry that is self-reporting and self-policing,” said Mary Greene, the report’s author. “There’s no federal or state oversight of [filings with FracFocus].”

In April 2013, the Harvard Law School Environmental Law Program released a report, Legal Fractures in Chemical Disclosure Laws that identified the flaws in FracFocus:

In its current form, FracFocus is not an acceptable regulatory compliance method for chemical disclosures. The registry’s shortcomings – and opportunities for improvement – fall into three categories:

(1) Timing of Disclosures. State laws attach penalties to a company’s late submittal of, or failure to submit, chemical disclosures. However, FracFocus does not notify a state when it receives a disclosure from a company operating in that state. Nor can most states readily determine when a disclosure is made. As a result, states cannot enforce timely disclosure requirements.

(2) Substance of Disclosures. FracFocus creates obstacles to compliance for reporting companies. For example, by not providing state-specific forms, FracFocus leaves companies to figure out how to account for state disclosure requirements not covered by the FracFocus form. FracFocus staff does not review submissions, and states usually do not receive the form; factors that may encourage some companies to under-value careful reporting. Meanwhile, no state sets minimum reporting standards for FracFocus. In fact, were FracFocus to disappear entirely, most states using the registry would have no backup disclosure methods readily identified and available to them.

(3) Nondisclosures. Trade secret protection is critical in order to reward development of unique products in the marketplace. However, three characteristics of a robust trade secret regime prevent overly broad demands for this protection: substantiation by the company, verification by a government agency, and opportunity for public challenge. FracFocus has none of these characteristics; operators have sole discretion to determine when to assert trade secrets. As a result, inconsistent trade secret assertions are made throughout the registry.

As the EIP report clearly illustrates, none of the flaws has been addressed or fixed. The industry is playing a shell game with chemical disclosure. Now you see it — now you don’t.  FracFocus is another ineffective, industry-controlled organization which is used as a propaganda tool to promote oil & gas development. FracFocus is a fraud.

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2 Comments on “FracFocus is a fraud”

  1. maryinline Says:

    I wonder if the EAB will invite you to the next meeting, to share your latest findings. According to this month’s presenter, industry is heavily regulated by federal, state and local regulations and oversight. Nothing to worry about here!

  2. Fiona Lloyd Says:

    oh FFS. No matter how cynical I get, it’s just never enough. Susan Avillar and her merry little band of fracking fetishers needs their feet held to the fire by our elected representatives.

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