If you live right next to a drilling rig, or your kids go to school beside a fracking site, or your county is suddenly littered with well pads -- are there health risks? That’s a question that’s been asked from Pennsylvania to North Dakota, from Colorado to Texas as more and more people find themselves and their towns in the midst of an unprecedented energy boom.
Energy reporter Stephanie Joyce talks with Speaker of the House, Tom Lubnau, Shawn Reese, head of the Wyoming Business Council, and Roger Coupal who’s an economist at the University of Wyoming during the forum on coal and foreign exports.
In the last few years, the United States has undergone a radical transformation, from energy importer to energy exporter. Liquified natural gas terminals that were built to process natural gas from abroad are being converted for export. The first tanker full of unrefined US crude oil to leave our shores in decade set sail from Texas late last month. Coal companies are increasingly relying on foreign markets to pad their balance sheets. Wyoming Public Radio held a forum recently to discuss how increased foreign exports could affect the state.
Political spending both for and against potential anti-fracking ballot measures is already washing over Colorado.
Colorado is quickly becoming ground zero for a political war over the future of hydraulic fracturing. Drill operations are pushing deeper into populated areas these days and some local governments and activists are supporting ballot measures that would give communities greater control over the industry.
Last week, one of the nation’s largest suppliers of fracking chemicals said it would fully disclose the ingredients of its products. But Wyoming’s top oil and gas regulator says until he sees more information from Baker Hughes about the format of its disclosure, it’s hard to say whether it goes far enough to comply with Wyoming’s disclosure laws.
One of the country’s largest suppliers of hydraulic fracturing chemicals says going forward, it will fully disclose the ingredients that make up those chemicals and their maximum concentrations in the frac fluid.
It’s been called miner's phthisis, grinder's asthma, potter's rot. Silicosis is a disease of the lungs that’s caused by inhaling tiny particles of crystalline silica dust, basically sand. Those particles cut the lung tissue, causing inflammation and scarring that make it difficult to breathe.
Environmental and landowner groups are celebrating after the Wyoming Supreme Court found a lower court had ruled in error regarding disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
A Wyoming company is in trouble with North Dakota officials for improperly disposing of filter socks used in oil and gas drilling. Filter socks capture sediment in flowback water, and can concentrate naturally-occurring radioactivity. The North Dakota Department of Health says inspectors detected radioactivity at above-background levels on two flatbed trailers piled high with filter socks that are owned by Riverton-based R.P Services.
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.
The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted Tuesday to start the formal rulemaking process to establish baseline water testing in the state. The rule would require oil and gas operators to collect water samples before beginning development.
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.
Public interest groups that lost a suit about disclosing fracking chemicals are appealing that decision to the Wyoming Supreme Court. Groups like Earthjustice and the Powder River Basin Resource Council argue that the separate chemicals used in the fracking process should be public information under the Wyoming Public Records Act. A Wyoming District court Judge sided in March with the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission as well as industry when it ruled that not disclosing chemical identities when they are deemed a trade secret is permissible.
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.