fracking

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

A new independent review of the E-P-A study on hydraulic fracturing in Pavillion confirms the link between water contamination and fracking. The review was requested by a conglomerate of environmental groups.

One of the criticisms of the E-P-A study was that it was poorly conducted science, and therefore, put forth unreliable conclusions. But the hydrologic consultant who did the review, Tom Myers, says the E-P-A did goodwork.

This morning, the Environmental Protection Agency released federal standards under the Clean Air Act that will control air pollution from hydraulically fractured natural gas and oil wells.

This is the first set of federal standards to control air pollution from fracking.

The regulations aim to decrease air pollution caused by volatile organic compounds and other chemicals… and will also reduce the amount of methane, which is a greenhouse gas, released into the air.

A Wyoming court is being asked to rule that the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has been too liberal in giving industry the opportunity to withhold what chemicals are involved in fracking.  Laura Veaton of Earth Justice says that of the 52 requests to withhold trade secrets, 50 have been granted.  Veaton says some were granted even though some companies did not comply with state requirements.

State, tribal and federal officials have agreed to work collaboratively in Pavillion to do further sampling and collect more data in their water monitoring wells. The move is expected to push back a final report on a possible link between water contamination and hydraulic fracturing in the area until later this year.

At a meeting with Pavillion residents this morning, Governor Mead said he wants to continue providing people with safe water.

Pavillion is at the center of an EPA investigation about whether hydraulic fracturing has contaminated the town’s drinking water supply. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease recommended that residents refrain from drinking the water AND shower with their windows open, and as a result, area oil and gas producer EnCana, and the state of Wyoming, are now paying to have bottled water delivered to residents.

In the wake of a congressional hearing over a draft report by the Environmental Protection Agency that links hydraulic fracturing with water contamination in the town of Pavillion, the Wind River Tribes are pushing to take a bigger role in the investigation.

EPA

Tomorrow, the U-S House of Representatives’ Energy and Environment Subcommittee will hear about the Environmental Protection Agency’s ongoing investigation of groundwater contamination in the town of Pavillion. However, Pavillion residents say they were not invited to testify.

In December the EPA released a draft report on its three-year water contamination investigation. It indicated that ground water in Pavillion’s aquifer contains compounds that are “likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing.”

A federal report possibly linking groundwater pollution to hydraulic fracturing in central Wyoming is not discouraging hopes for the Niobrara oil play in the southeast part of the state.

Many are questioning the scientific conclusions of the Environmental Protection Agency findings on the technique to extract oil and gas.

But both EPA and industry representatives say the specific concerns raised in the report are not applicable to southeast Wyoming. That is because the Niobrara formation is geologically much different than the Pavillion area.

Residents of the town of Pavillion say a company called Legacy Reserves LP has entered an agreement to purchase natural gas properties in the area from the current owner, Encana. 

Representatives from Legacy Reserves did not return calls to confirm the sale, but according to their website,  the Midland, Texas-based company will purchase several properties in Freemont County, where Pavillion is located, for 45-million dollars.

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