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.

Bob Jenkins / Wikipedia

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.”

This week the federal government will close testimony on proposed fracking rules. 

Opponents of fracking say the proposed federal regulations are too weak and those in Wyoming say they prefer the state’s rules. 

Deb Thomas of Clark has expressed concerns about fracking in Wyoming for a number of years.  She says Wyoming’s rules are strong, but she thinks they could also be improved.  

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.  

The Environmental Protection Agency is abandoning its plan to confirm hydraulic fracturing is linked to groundwater pollution in central Wyoming.

A draft news release obtained today by The Associated Press says the EPA won't have independent scientists review its finding that fracking may have caused the pollution.

EPA spokesman Tom Reynolds in Washington, D.C., confirms the information.

The EPA says it won't finalize its report on the issue. Instead, it will let state officials investigate.

Willow Belden

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.

A judge in Casper has sided with the state of Wyoming and ruled against environmentalists who sought to make public the lists of ingredients that go into hydraulic fracturing fluids.
     Environmental groups had requested the ingredient lists from the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, arguing that the public needs to know what chemicals companies are putting underground.
     Natrona County District Judge Catherine Wilking has ruled that Wyoming's state oil and gas supervisor was correct to withhold the ingredient lists as protected trade secrets.

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.

Chesapeake Energy told a crowd of nearly 200 people that Converse County will continue to be a hot spot for oil production.  The discussion was part of a public meeting last night in Douglas.

Chesapeake did not say how much oil production will actually occur in the area, but company officials and state regulators tried to allay concerns about the risks associated with flaring and fracking.

Chesapeake’s Sandy Andrew said the ingredients in frack fluid are largely benign.

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.

A study by the National Institute of Occupational Safety found that workers involved with hydraulic fracturing are often exposed to dangerously high levels of silica.

Silica sand is used in fracking fluid, and breathing dust from the material can cause lung diseases and cancer.

The sites that were monitored for the study were all outside Wyoming, but John Robitaille with the Petroleum Association of Wyoming says companies here still need to take the matter seriously.

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.

Governor Matt Mead is asking the Department of Interior to give the state 90 days of additional time to respond to new federal hydraulic fracturing rules. 

The governor is concerned that the rules, when combined with existing state rules, will drive up costs for the oil and gas industry.  He says Wyoming wants more time to study impacts to the state. 

Wyoming plans to install water cisterns at the homes of residents in the Pavillion area’s natural gas field. An EPA draft report suggests contaminants in area wells are connected to hydraulic fracturing, but state officials say the cause of the contamination is unknown.

A group of Pavillion residents says Wyoming officials betrayed them by delaying the release of information tentatively connecting hydraulic fracturing with groundwater pollution in the area.

An Associated Press investigation shows that Gov. Matt Mead convinced the Environmental Protection Agency to delay its draft report on the contamination by a full month. Mead and other state officials used the extra time to try and debunk the findings before they could harm the oil and gas industries.

On Friday, the Bureau of Land Management released new proposals to regulate hydraulic fracturing on public and tribal lands.

Proponents have seen the rules as base-line protection for residents in all states, opponents see them as redundant and bad for business.

Governor Mead says he’s troubled by the rules because Wyoming’s Fracking standards are already more stringent than what the federal government is proposing.

Western state officials took turns bashing the
federal government at a congressional field hearing on proposed
nationwide drilling rules on hydraulic fracturing.
     But Democrats on the panel Wednesday, along with some Colorado
environmental activists, insisted that health concerns around the
drilling procedure known as fracking mean there is a need for
common health and safety standards.
     Officials from Colorado, Wyoming and Utah testified before the
Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Wednesday at the