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Exemptions to Fracking Chemical Disclosure Law To Receive Renewed Scrutiny

Environmental and landowner groups are celebrating after the Wyoming Supreme Court found a lower court had ruled in error regarding disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

Since Wyoming enacted its fracking chemical disclosure law in 2010, the Oil and Gas Commission has granted companies the right to keep those chemicals secret more than a hundred times. In 2011, a coalition of environmental and landowner groups challenged the justification for those exemptions. A district court judge ruled against them, deferring to the Commission’s expertise in making decisions about what constitutes a trade secret. The Wyoming Supreme Court says that was a mistake, and that the district court should have evaluated the merits of the exemptions on its own.

Shannon Anderson is the staff attorney for the Powder River Basin Resource Council. She says although the decision doesn’t resolve the issue of whether particular chemicals must be disclosed or not, it’s still a victory.

“We’re hoping at the very least it will make the Commission take a second look at these exemptions and make sure they’re fully justified," Anderson says. "Of course, ultimately, we would like full disclosure of hydraulic fracturing chemical information.”

The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the district court for case-by-case consideration of the exemptions. 

Oil and Gas Supervisor Grant Black said he's reviewing the decision, and isn't prepared to comment. Halliburton, an intervenor in the case, didn't return calls. In a written statement, Halliburton, an intervenor in the case, said that when the district court takes up the issue, "Halliburton expects to demonstrate again that the identities of its proprietary chemicals qualify as trade secrets under the [Wyoming Public Records Act]."

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