The Wyoming Supreme Court heard a case Wednesday challenging the state’s process for exempting fracking chemicals from public disclosure. Wyoming was the first state in the nation to adopt a disclosure law, but it included what some say is a massive loophole: companies can petition for what’s called a trade secret exemption. They’ve done that more than a hundred times since the law went into effect in 2010.
The federal rule on hydraulic fracturing proposed by the Bureau of Land Management came under fire today from state and industry representatives at an energy law conference. The regulations establish nationwide standards for cementing wells and disclosure of chemicals used in fracking fluids.
Wyoming already has regulations in place for fracking and industry representatives say a federal rule would kowtow to environmental groups, infringe on states’ ability to control their water supply, and wear away states’ rights.
Opinion is sharply divided on a proposed rule that would require water testing at oil and gas wells before and after drilling.
The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has been taking public comment on the rule since August. Two dozen groups and individuals submitted written comments, and a handful spoke at a public hearing in Casper on Tuesday.
Bob LeResche is vice-chair of the Powder River Basin Resource Council, a group that represents landowners. He says as they stand, the rules have no teeth.
Legislators had a lot of questions about a proposed water-testing rule for oil and gas wells during a meeting of the Minerals Committee last week.
Governor Matt Mead proposed the rule, which would require water testing before and after drilling. Industry estimates it would cost $9,000 to $18,000 per well. The governor’s natural resources policy advisor, Jerimiah Rieman, told legislators it’s worth the cost.
“From my perspective, it’s pretty cheap insurance for the companies,” Rieman said. “It’s pretty cheap for the state to have a rider on that policy.”
A bill in Congress that would give states the exclusive right to regulate hydraulic fracturing has raised the ire of a national sportsmen’s advocacy group. Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development has released a statement supporting federal regulation. U-S Representative for Wyoming, Cynthia Lummis is a member of the Natural Resources Committee, which sponsored House Bill 2728 against federal regulation.
Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck spoke with the new supervisor of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Grant Black. Since he started the job a few weeks ago, Black has been dealing with issues ranging from the flaring of natural gas to water contamination. He says the flaring issue is interesting.
The U-S Department of Interior released an updated draft proposal of fracking rules for federal and tribal lands on Thursday. The rule-making process started in 2010, and the latest draft incorporates feedback from more than 177-thousand public comments submitted.
Congress is looking legislation that would require the oil and gas industry to disclose what chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”
The bill, called the FRAC Act, is opposed by Wyoming lawmakers who say such regulations should be left up to the states. Companies say fracking chemicals need to remain under-wraps because the mixtures they use are trade secrets.
Brad Powell with Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development says the legislation would set minimum baseline standards for impacts on water.
An energy group says a recently released report overstated issues of water use by the oil and gas industry. The Western Organization of Resource Councils released the report last month and said regulators need to consider the quantity of water the energy industry uses, in addition to the quality.
An advocacy group is warning that fracking could cause air pollution and other problems in national parks.
Sharon Mader with the National Parks Conservation Association says they’re concerned that ozone from gas development in Sublette County could spread to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. She says that hasn’t happened yet, but they’re worried about the future.
A report by the Western Organization of Resource Councils says the oil and gas industry is using at least seven billion gallons of water per year in just four states: Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota. The report says after industry is done with that water, it turns into a hazardous material, and in some cases cannot be reused for other purposes.
Powder River Basin Resource Council member Robert LeResche says he’s also worried about states’ lack of regulations regarding the quantity of water used.
‘Gasland 2’, a sequel to the 2010 documentary ‘Gasland,’ premiers this weekend in New York City. The original film focused on land owners alleging that oil and gas development on their land contaminated their water sources. The movie is thought to have brought the terms ‘fracking’ into the mainstream. The films’ director, Josh Fox, says the sequel investigates how government and regulatory agencies have dealt with what affected land owners say is contamination by industry.
The University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources is working to forge a relationship with Saudi Arabia’s national oil and gas company, Saudi Aramco, and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. Saudi Aramco is the biggest oil and gas company in the world and invests heavily in research and development. SER Director, Mark Northam, just returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia. He says Wyoming and Saudi Arabia face similar challenges when it comes to unconventional reservoirs and water shortages, and he says they would both benefit by sharing their resources.
A survey by the Pew Research Center shows that more Americans are in favor of fracking than are opposed to it. Forty-eight percent of respondents said they’d like to see an increased use of fracking, while 38 percent said they wouldn’t.
The Pew Center’s Leah Christian says opinions varied by region, but that could be because of prevailing political views in different parts of the country.
“The two regions where we saw the most support – the Midwest and the South – for fracking, those are also more Republican regions of the country,” Christian said.
The oil and gas industry is trying to ease environmental concerns by developing nontoxic fluids for hydraulic fracturing.
But it's not clear whether the fluids will be widely embraced by drilling companies.
Fracking has made it possible to tap into energy reserves across the nation but also has raised concerns about pollution, since large volumes of water along with sand and hazardous chemicals are injected underground to free the oil and gas from rock.
Several environmental groups went to district court today in Casper to argue that the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission must disclose information about chemicals being used in hydraulic fracturing around the state. Wyoming was the first state to require companies to disclose such information, yet since that law went into effect, the Oil and Gas Commission has granted almost all secrecy requests from companies claiming that some of the chemicals are proprietary information.
The Powder River Basin Resource Council has drawn up a list of recommendations to protect groundwater resources during energy production.
The group’s Jill Morrison says they want the state to document how much water is available in aquifers, and to limit how much water can be used for oil and gas production in certain areas where water resources are scarce.
“Because we know, for example, in the Powder River Basin, we’ve really drawn down our main aquifer that supplies domestic use … through the coalbed methane development,” Morrison said.
Last week, the U-S Geological Survey released testing it did on water wells near the town of Pavillion.
Governor Matt Mead says the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality is still reviewing the data and he’s not prepared to comment until he reads their analysis. The Environmental Protection Agency did follow-up testing as well and should release those results soon.
Earlier the E-P-A suggested fracking may have contaminated area water wells. The Governor says if it turns out that the E-P-A results are confirmed, the state will address it.
The U.S. Geological Survey has released new data about groundwater testing near Pavillion. The testing was meant to provide additional information about whether hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, caused water contamination there.
Keith Guille with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality says no one quite knows what the results mean yet, because the USGS only provided raw numbers, not analysis.
The Department of Interior has authorized a 60 day extension of the comment period for the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations, following concerns from the oil and gas industry. The rules would call for companies that use fracking to disclose the chemicals they use, and address waste water and drilling issues.