EPA whistleblower Wes Wilson asks a question during the University of Wyoming’s forum on hydraulic fracturing in September.

By Laurie Milford

The University of Wyoming hosted a forum in September with the purpose of exploring the technical and environmental issues related to hydraulic fracturing and its associated activities.

The two-day conference in Laramie was successful in that 400 people attended and exchanged ideas about how to manage this high-tech and high-risk drilling tool.

Overall, it was a good discussion. Steve Jones and I from the staff of the Wyoming Outdoor Council were on the steering committee that planned this forum. Working with our colleague from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Amy Mall, we helped to secure these speakers:

Robert Field, associate research scientist with the UW Department of Atmospheric Science, who presented on ozone pollution in Pinedale;
Pat O’Toole, a rancher from Savory, Wyoming, who has oil and gas development on his property and BLM grazing allotments;
Deb Thomas, organizer for the Powder River Basin Resource Council, who presented on the ways drilling has affected people in Clark and Pavillion, Wyoming;
David Burnett, with the Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M University, who presented on best practices;
Ann Maest of Stratus Consulting, who presented on “flowback” and produced water; and
Brianna Mordick, science fellow and geologist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, with six years of experience working for Anadarko Petroleum Corp.

They were all excellent.

Our role in the forum

As the steering committee planned the event this summer, it fell to the environmental groups on the committee to ensure that discussions of water- and air-quality concerns, best management practices, the EPA investigation into water contamination in Pavillion, and landowner issues were included on the agenda.

This steering committee process was a clear example, for me, of the essential role nongovernmental organizations play in representing the interests of the public.

The university plans to publish a summary report in December. In the meantime, you can view videos of the proceedings and see the presenters’ slideshows on the website of the School of Energy Resources by clicking here. (If you have trouble viewing these videos you might need to install Microsoft Silverlight.)

Many thanks to both the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources and the Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources for hosting the forum and for including Steve and me on the steering committee.

Laurie Milford, executive director of the Wyoming Outdoor Council, can be reached at laurie@wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org, or at 307-721-7610

Other posts you might want to see:

NYT: Fracking has contaminated drinking water

NPR: Worries over water as fracking becomes pervasive

Fracking linked to water contamination

Fracking not as safe as industry claims

‘I asked them for the data and they wouldn’t share it’



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