The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in response to its proposed rulemaking requiring companies to disclose the composition of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). Some SOCMA members, the majority of which are small businesses, manufacture chemicals used in oil and gas exploration, including fracking.
The comments, penned by SOCMA’s William E. Allmond, vice president, government and public relations, and Dan Newton, senior manager, government relations, emphasize why protecting trade secrets is important to SOCMA members, specifically in an industry where it is difficult to launch a product into commerce.
“It can take many years of research and development to launch a product. It is generally said that one out of 10 research ideas make it to process development, one out of those 10 make it to commercial development and one out of those 10 actually get commercialized,” wrote Allmond and Newton.
SOCMA supports enhancing public confidence in the chemical industry. However, transparency done the wrong way can lead to mining from foreign competitors before chemicals enter commerce. “The consequent offshoring leads to lost jobs and to product manufacture outside the reach of U.S. law,” the comments read. “Rather than increasing public confidence and reducing product risk, loss of trade secret protections will likely have the opposite effect.”
SOCMA encouraged EPA to avoid duplicative reporting requirements. Voluntary initiatives between manufacturers, in collaboration with local state and federal agencies, are under way. One example is FracFocus, a mechanism for posting drilling activities in a responsible way that keeps the public informed while protecting proprietary business information.
“EPA could use the data on FracFocus and its own study of hydraulic fracturing, coupled with the data developed by its own CDR [chemical data reporting rule], to determine the identities and amounts of chemicals used at a particular well or more broadly,” said Allmond and Newton.
The chemical industry remains one of the most innovative in the world. With increased domestic energy exploration, it is critical the U.S. maintains its competitive edge while bolstering consumer confidence through rational reporting requirements. SOCMA issued comments in hopes the agency will keep this balance in mind when issuing its proposed rule.
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