Yesterday we told you about Texas governor Rick Perry doing something right for once — he passed of a law forcing drillers to disclose the chemicals used in the controversial and environmentally destructive practice of hydraulic fracturing. Turns out the law has a bunch of loopholes that corporations are duty-bound to exploit in accordance with their legal obligation to maximize shareholder value, even if doing so threatens people’s health. Maybe you've heard this story before?
Four states in addition to Texas — Wyoming, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and Michigan — are working on laws to require disclosure of fracking chemicals, but none of them mandate that drillers disclose the concentration of the the chemicals used. Which means that no one has any idea how much is actually being used, or spilled. Potentially, this is sort of like calling poison control and telling them someone drank some antifreeze, but failing to mention that they downed a whole bottle. It’s better than not calling poison control, but it still isn’t the whole story.
A second issue is that companies are not required to disclose "non-hazardous" chemicals. This would be fine if all the chemicals they use had been evaluated for their toxicity, but only a tiny fraction have. Worse, chemicals that harm the environment but not humans aren't even addressed.
Finally, companies don't have to disclose any chemical that they claim is a "trade secret." This makes sense until you realize that it could invalidate the entire law. Want to inject millions of gallons of benzene directly into the ground? As long as it’s garnished with your secret blend of herbs and spices, you can go right ahead!