FracFocus: Myths and Facts

***Cross posted from GWPC.org

As President of the Ground Water Protection Council, I have been involved with FracFocus, the Chemical Disclosure Registry website managed by the GWPC and IOGCC, since its inception in 2010.  Recently,  attempts have been made to paint FracFocus as an incomplete, inaccurate, and insufficient means of reporting hydraulic fracturing chemicals.  It’s time to set the record straight.

Myth:  In a July, 2012 report, the Natural Resources Defense Council criticized the use of FracFocus to satisfy state disclosure requirements. Though many states and drillers are using FracFocus, the report said, the site lacks any way for companies to record much of the information required by some states. [NOTE: the NRDC report can be found here]

Fact:  FracFocus was never intended to contain ALL of the information related to a fracture job or well treatment.  It is a “chemical disclosure system”.  Many of the elements referred to by NRDC are, and have been, collected on state well completion reports for many years . Collecting them again in FracFocus would be redundant and inefficient.

Myth: “Because the information provided by FracFocus is so limited, there is not a single state in which disclosures on the site contain all information required by the state rule,” NRDC wrote.

Fact:  This is simply not true.  If the FracFocus system did not contain all of the information required by a state’s rule on chemical disclosure, the state could not use it for their regulatory reporting, yet eleven states already do so and nine more are in the process of adopting it.  FracFocus contains ALL of the information required by these states with respect to “hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure”.  It will also continue to evolve as state’s needs change.

Myth:  Some environmental groups have been disturbed to see FracFocus becoming a substitute for traditional regulatory disclosure. They say the registry limits its usefulness in a way that provides less transparency and accountability than standard government disclosure.

Fact:  Because FracFocus allows any individual to go to a single website to obtain chemical disclosure information, rather than having to request the information directly from state agencies on an individual state by state basis, it increases access to the information.  Further, the idea that it is somehow less transparent than standard government disclosure is inaccurate.  Most states do not require electronic reporting so the fact that FracFocus provides information on a well by well basis is nearly identical to the “standard” way in which states would provide the information based on an “open records” request.

Myth: “I can’t see much in there that suggests it will contain good data,” said  a programmer who co-founded a British company called ScraperWiki and has “scraped” some of the data from the PDFs and put it in a format downloadable to a spreadsheet.

Fact:  Improving the quality of the data is one of the main purposes of going from the current Excel based system to an XML based system.  Excel has limited data validation capabilities when compared to XML and FracFocus 2.0 will utilize many more data validation checks to improve the already good quality of the data.

Finally, it is important to remember that prior to FracFocus, public availability to hydraulic fracturing chemical information was practically non-existent.  Today, FracFocus provides a valuable, easily accessible tool for the public with the most comprehensive, complete and accurate accounting of hydraulic fracturing chemical use in the United States.

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