No fracking secrets

For more information about Gov. Jerry Brown's draft regulations onfracking, go to

Fracking is booming these days, especially in California, home to the second-largest oil-shale formation in the continental United States. So its no wonder that the practice of extracting oil and gas by “hydraulic fracturing”—wherein water and chemicals are injected underground to break up rock formations—is of ever-growing concern to many of us these days.

Why? Carcinogenic and other toxic chemicals are commonly used in fracking. The process has not been adequately studied; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has just begun its first truly independent study on how the process may impact drinking water. Still, it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in toxicology to recognize that the strenuous injection of dangerous chemicals underground is bound to impact the soil and groundwater.

Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown released draft regulations that would require oil companies to disclose the locations where they intend to frack and test the integrity of wells beforehand so as to prevent chemicals from leaking freely into the groundwater. The draft rules would also require drillers to be more forthcoming about what chemicals make up their fracking recipes. It’s a start, but it’s not enough.

That’s because some energy companies would still be allowed to withhold reporting what chemicals they are using by claiming a “trade secret” exemption. Indeed, we were glad to see the topic of fracking and trade secrets being much discussed locally in a recent Senate hearing on Brown’s pick for the new head of the state Department of Conservation, Mark Nechodom.

When the public’s health is concerned, there should be no secrets. Period. Oil and gas production in California should not go forward unless it is safe and transparent.