By Deb Courson Smith

The Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation voted Wednesday not to require complete public disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing for natural gas – despite the fact that most public comments it received – 192 out of 212 – urged transparency.

Sally Owen-Still, a landowner in an area of Sweet Grass County targeted for fracking, had urged the board to take a cautionary approach because so much is still not known about the effects of the procedure and because possible water contamination is being investigated in Wyoming.

“The responsible thing we ought to do is to protect the public from these things until we know better, rather than saying, ‘Hey, we’re not going to do anything until a disaster happens.'”

Wyoming requires some disclosures.

Industry testimony has centered on concern that the list of ingredients is a trade secret, and assurances were offered that the chemicals are safe and injected so deeply that they don’t touch underground water supplies.

If the chemicals are as safe as the industry claims, says Owen-Still, a member of the Northern Plains Resource Council, then she questions the reluctance to go public.

“It just seems logical on every level to give a landowner, or an adjacent landowner, notice and opportunity to test for the chemicals and to know what those chemicals are.”

The new Montana rule requires some limited sharing of information as well as a process for access to the chemical list if there is a health emergency. The rules go into effect Aug. 26 if approved by the secretary of state.