Trade Secrets, Disclosure, and Dissent in a Fracturing Energy Revolution

13 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2011 Last revised: 12 Nov 2014

Date Written: September 15, 2010


The United States has traditionally enlisted citizens in efforts to control industrial activity and its effects on public welfare. A growing energy revolution, however - led by a new method of extracting natural gas from shale called “slickwater hydraulic fracturing” (described in brief as “fracing” in this Article) - does not fall squarely within statutes that contain private attorney general provisions. Further, states often preempt local regulation of this activity. Citizens are therefore demanding more information about fracing and a voice in its potential regulation. The EPA has commissioned a nationwide study of the practice and in September 2010, it sent a letter to major players in the industry, ordering them to disclose the chemicals used in their fracing operations. While this administrative action appears to open a door to public information and citizen input, it allows the companies to maintain trade secrets and does little to improve publicly available information. For fracing policy to be successful, individuals representing a range of perspectives must have a voice in its formation, and the best policy will arise from informed public discourse. More information must be disclosed about fracing - and particularly the chemicals used in fracing - before the public will have an effective and informed voice in helping to guide a major energy development.

Keywords: hydraulic fracturing, fracking, fracing, fracturing, trade secret, chemical, disclosure, disclose, Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, EPA, natural gas, Halliburton, public participation, subpoena, Wiseman

Suggested Citation

Wiseman, Hannah Jacobs, Trade Secrets, Disclosure, and Dissent in a Fracturing Energy Revolution (September 15, 2010). Columbia Law Review Sidebar, Vol. 111, pp. 1-13, January 27, 2011, University of Tulsa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2011-05, Available at SSRN:

Hannah Jacobs Wiseman (Contact Author)

Penn State Law – University Park ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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