At the behest of oil and gas interests, a state commission has suggested that Gov. Terry McAuliffe delay the implementation of new drilling rules. The industry wants time to ram through the General Assembly a new exemption to the state’s Freedom of Information Act so it can keep secret the chemicals companies use in fracking.
The governor should say no. Whatever proprietary interest companies might have in keeping their fracking formulas from competitors is heavily outweighed by the public interest in disclosure. Industry has no more right to hide what toxins it pumps into the ground than it has to hide what effluents it pours into the streams or what particulates it belches into the sky. And sharing that information with emergency officials in the event of disaster hardly suffices. Disclosure at that point falls into the category of “too little, too late.”
Fracking is a legitimate means of tapping valuable resources and is safe when done right. There is no need for Virginia to adopt the categorical opposition to fracking advocated by environmental ideologues. At the same time, fracking can inflict negative externalities on the broader public — and those externalities cannot be measured, let alone addressed, if they remain hidden from public view.