Natrona County District Judge Catherine Wilking dealt a blow to Wyoming denizens (Wyomingites?) seeking specific information on chemicals currently being pumped into the ground that could be potentially harmful to the environment. Essentially, the court in Casper ruled in favor of the state of Wyoming, which already has the sought-after intelligence about these chemicals (thanks to a 2010 rule in which Wyoming became one of the first states to require fracking companies to disclose their ingredients to the state government) but refuses to share this information with the general public.
A bit of background: the chemicals in question are used by mining companies to lubricate the cracks in the earth created by hydraulic fracturing (fracking), so that loose sand will pour in and hold the cracks open, to more easily access the natural gases beneath. Environmentalists across the globe have grave concerns about the environmental consequences of fracking, as readers of this blog already know. Wyoming itself is already on red alert with the EPA regarding what kind of permanent damage is being done by fracking to its groundwater. So, the demand by environmental groups to publicly release the ingredients of these fracking fluids does not seem inherently unreasonable to me, and yet the court found otherwise, on the grounds that the ingredients are trade secrets that are protected from disclosure under Wyoming’s open records laws. Environmentalists argue that they have strong claims to the information, as it could help prevent irreversible pollution damage.
While environmentalist groups debate taking the case to a higher court, James Fallow, in a fascinating Q&A with the Atlantic, argues that asteroid mining within the next century could save the environment.