Montana coalition sues BOGC over fracking chemical disclosure

A coalition of Montana property owners, public health advocates, and conservation groups today filed a legal challenge to the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation (BOGC), which refused last September to grant the public greater access to information about the chemicals used in fracking.

Leaking storage pit near Lindsey, MT

Leaking storage pit near Lindsay, MT

Many chemicals used in fracking are toxic or carcinogenic to humans, who may be exposed to the chemicals through surface spills of fracking fluids, groundwater contamination, and chemical releases into the air. As we have documented on this site, numerous studies have documented adverse health effects in people who live or use water wells near fracking operations.

In 2011 the BOGC put rules in place regarding chemical disclosure. These rules have two major shortcomings:

  1. They allow oil and gas operators to withhold the identities of specific chemicals they use for fracking from the Board and the public until after fracking occurs.
  2. Even after fracking occurs, operators may continue to withhold the identity of any fracking chemical information they claim is a trade secret. They can do this, according to the rules, without providing any evidence demonstrating that withheld chemical information actually qualifies as a trade secret under state law and with no oversight by the BOGC.
Spill at Cutbank Creek. Photo; Destini Vaile

Spill at Cutbank Creek. Photo; Destini Vaile

“Montanans have the right to know what chemicals oil and gas operators plan to pump into the ground on their farms and ranches and near their homes so they can take steps to protect their property and health,” said Earthjustice attorney Katherine O’Brien, who is representing the coalition in the lawsuit. “Operators just down the road in Wyoming already are required to disclose this information, so we know that broader disclosure is workable for industry.”

The coalition petitioned the Board in July 2016 to close these gaps in the existing disclosure rules and ensure that Montanans who live and farm near fracking operations have access to chemical information they need to safeguard their property rights, health, and environment. The petition specifically requested that the rules be changed to require operators to disclose specific chemical information before fracking occurs and require operators to justify their trade secret claims. But on September 23, 2016, the Board denied the petition in a one-page decision.

“My family home is less than a mile away from numerous fracked oil wells on the edge of the Bakken oil field,” said plaintiff Dr. Mary Anne Mercer, a public health expert who has witnessed fracking operations on her family ranch. “I worry about what the potentially toxic solutions used for fracking are doing to the soil and water of the land that I’ll always call home.”

Matt Skoglund, director of National Resources Defense Council’s Northern Rockies office in Bozeman said, “As it stands today, the Board of Oil and Gas is approving fracking chemicals for use in Montana without even knowing what the chemicals are. That is completely unacceptable, and it needs to change.”

The BOGC has 40 days to file a response. We’ll keep you updated on developments.

Download the lawsuit.

About davidjkatz

The Moses family has lived on the Stillwater River since 1974, when George and Lucile Moses retired and moved to the Beehive from the Twin Cities. They’re gone now, but their four daughters (pictured at left, on the Beehive) and their families continue to spend time there, and have grown to love the area. This blog started as an email chain to keep the family informed about the threat of increased fracking activity in the area, but the desire to inform and get involved led to the creation of this blog.
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4 Responses to Montana coalition sues BOGC over fracking chemical disclosure

  1. Pingback: Montana coalition sues BOGC over fracking chemical disclosure | nearlydead

  2. Robin "Cat" Billau says:

    Clearly these chemicals are also of concern when being transported to and from a work site. This plays into our need for knowing what these chemical s are. Hazardous Material Transportation regs are being considered this year at the legislature. Fracking chemicals should be included.

  3. Pingback: “Changed circumstances”: Montana Board of Oil and Gas reconsiders rulemaking on fracking chemical disclosure | Preserve the Beartooth Front

  4. Pingback: Action Alert: Your voice needed on new Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation chemical disclosure rule | Preserve the Beartooth Front

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