Drilling on the Pinedale Anticline, photo by Linda Baker
THE WYOMING OIL AND GAS CONSERVATION COMMISSION has unanimously approved new rules that will require companies operating in Wyoming to disclose the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” process.
The new regulations were championed by Gov. Dave Freudenthal, who sits on the commission, as a way of heading off federal government regulation of fracking in Wyoming, and to ensure the state remains the primary regulator here.
Regardless of the impetus, many observers—including the Wyoming Outdoor Council—believe the updated rules will help the state do a better job of protecting people, ground water and surface water from potential dangers associated with fracking.
The new fracking rules were introduced by a motion from Freudenthal during a scheduled meeting of the oil and gas commission this morning in Casper, and they were approved by a 5-0 vote.
Steve Jones with the Wyoming Outdoor Council called the vote a “good step forward.”
“This was an important decision,” Jones said. “I think we’d all like the state to be able to work proactively to protect workers and residents. These rules, if stringently applied, should help regulators do a better job of protecting rivers and streams and underground aquifers from contamination.”
During hydraulic fracturing, drillers inject chemicals and fluids underground at high pressure to break up rock formations. This can release natural gas reserves that had been stored in the formation. The process is used in a variety of natural gas plays in the United States, and in Wyoming it is used in multiple locations, including on the Pinedale Anticline and Jonah fields near Pinedale.
Several Pavillion-area residents’ water wells have been contaminated by hydrocarbons and other toxins in recent years, and some area residents believe this contamination is a result of hydraulic fracturing near or on their properties.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investigating the contaminated wells in Pavillion and is still working to determine the cause or causes. The future disclosure of the constituents of fracking fluids, as required by the new rules, could help regulators investigate such water well contamination by giving investigators a list of chemicals and substances to test for.
The new fracking regulations must be finalized, signed by the governor, and filed before they take effect.
Contact: Steve Jones, watershed protection program attorney, Wyoming Outdoor Council, 307-349-6577 (cell); 307-332-7031 x12 (office)