The Wyoming Public Records Act (WPRA) requires that oil and gas companies disclose information about the chemicals used in their hydraulic fracturing operations. Specifically, companies must disclose the type of chemical used, the concentration of each chemical, the chemical compound name, and the CAS number—the unique number assigned to that chemical for purposes of public scientific literature. Companies may forgo disclosing this information, however, by requesting an exemption from the state’s disclosure rules on the basis that the information constitutes a trade secret, privileged information, or confidential information.
On January 23rd, the Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (WOGCC) agreed to a settlement that would require the WOGCC to strengthen its criteria for requests to protect the confidentiality of chemicals used in fracking operations.
The settlement agreement resolves a suit filed by several environmental organizations against the WOGCC. The environmental groups challenged the WOGCC’s decision to exempt multiple oil and gas companies from the state’s chemical disclosure requirement.
The WOGCC’s decision was affirmed by the district court. However, on March 12, 2014, the Wyoming Supreme Court remanded the case back to the district court. The Supreme Court reasoned that the district court had to engage in an independent review of the companies’ request for an exemption instead of simply evaluating whether the WOGCC’s decision was arbitrary and capricious. The Supreme Court also held that, for purposes of the WPRA, trade secrets should be defined as the term is defined in federal case law for the Freedom of Information Act.
The new standards will require fracking companies to provide additional factual detail when filing a request for an exemption from the WPRA’s disclosure requirements. The WOGCC agreed to implement the heightened requirements within seven days of the district court’s approval of the settlement agreement. In addition, the WOGCC agreed to provide the parties to the suit with notice of at least thirty days before the WOGCC decided to amend, withdraw, or supersede the rule changes discussed in the settlement agreement. Moreover, the WOGCC agreed to reconsider the environmental groups’ request at issue in the suit. The companies with information requested by the environmental groups will have to submit revised requests for exemptions that conform with the heightened requirements set forth in the settlement agreement.
Read the settlement agreement.