Policy Director Kate Konschnik argues for Goal-Oriented Disclosure Design in Shale Oil and Gas Development

EPI Director Kate Konschnik has published a new article, Goal-Oriented Disclosure Design for Shale Oil and Gas Development, in the Natural Resources Journal. In her article, Kate argues that disclosure laws are more effective when they are viewed as a means to achieving worthwhile policy goals. The key is to identify target audiences – those who can achieve policy goals directly as well as “intermediate audiences” who can apply pressure. By thinking through when target audiences need information, how they use information, and where they get their information, disclosure law designers can draft disclosure laws that will hit their mark.

Kate’s article focuses on disclosure laws targeting chemicals used to develop shale oil and gas. All too often, these laws are not written to achieve their stated purposes. For instance, policy makers want to provide medical personnel and first responders with complete information about the chemicals present at a well site, in case of an emergency. However, most states limit disclosure to hydraulic fracturing chemicals, excluding chemicals used for drilling and other purposes. Likewise, most states do not require disclosure until after the chemicals have been used on site. And many state laws allow companies to withhold chemical information if the company claims it is proprietary. Some states require proprietary information to be shared with medical personnel and first responders, but they do not describe the mechanism for sharing and place the burden on the first responder to track down the proprietary information. Following a Monroe County, Ohio well fire and release of fracturing fluid chemicals into an Ohio River tributary in July 2014, it took Halliburton five days to provide a complete list of the chemicals in the fluid to federal and state responders. Kate makes suggestions for curing these shortcomings.

This work builds on Kate’s work to push for improvements to FracFocus, the oil and gas industry’s online chemical disclosure registry. Since issuing her FracFocus white paper in April 2013, Kate has testified before the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board and worked with state agencies, the developers of FracFocus and other stakeholders to improve chemical disclosure.

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