Scientific empirical evidence produced by a reputable independent third party can fill this void. Indeed the first recommendation of the report by the Australian Council of Learned Academies into Shale Gas in June 2013 was to recommend scientific research.
In 2004, the United States Environmental Protection Agency undertook a study in relation to the contamination of drinking water by hydraulic fracturing fluids, and concluded that the injection of these fluids into wells posed little or no threat to underground drinking water.
In 2011, a study undertaken by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded that, with more than 20,000 shale gas wells drilled in the preceding decade, there was no evidence that demonstrated contamination of shallow water zones by fracture fluids.
In the United Kingdom, to address deep community concern about fraccing, the Chief Scientific Adviser Sir John Beddington FRS asked the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering to carry out an independent review of the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing to inform government policymaking about shale gas extraction.
However, as research commissioned by industry is likely to be open to claims of bias, it is incumbent on the Government and its science and research agencies to prepare and undertake this research.
Regulating disclosure of chemicals
Industry players should also have a role to fill the information void, which can later be co-opted by government to facilitate official disclosure requirements.
The Australian National Harmonised Regulatory Framework for Natural Gas and Coal Seams is certainly a good beginning in this regard and should be extended to shale gas.
Due to the lack of federal regulation in the United States, certain states have developed their own rules about the disclosure of chemicals (other than trade secrets) pumped into wells.
Such states include Arkansas, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, North Dakota, New York, Texas and West Virginia.
In the United States, FracFocus is the national hydraulic fracturing chemical registry.
The primary purpose of this site is to provide factual information concerning hydraulic fracturing and groundwater protection.