CHEYENNE - Wyoming environmental regulators are still reviewing an independent report that found flaws in how the state determines pollution limits in certain coal-bed methane discharge water.
"We are taking a very serious look at that consultants' report," John Corra, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, said Tuesday. "It's new information for us, and we want to dig into it. And we're just not ready yet to say much about it."
Meantime, the state continues to review and issue water discharge permits that some contend will result in damage to agriculture land.
"We haven't seen anything from DEQ other than business as usual, using the same scientifically invalid methodology," Jill Morrison, an organizer with the Sheridan-based Powder River Basin Resource Council, said.
Corra said his agency eventually will submit comment to the state Environmental Quality Council about the report. The council is accepting public comment until Sept. 30.
Some farmers, ranchers and conservation groups contend the state allows CBM developers to discharge water with too much sodium and salt, which can damage land and vegetation.
The issue is important because stricter controls on salt and sodium could force industry to undertake more costly measures in handling the water.
The issue has been debated over the past few years as the Environmental Quality Council undertook an effort to rework state environmental regulations on the hundreds of millions of gallons of water discharged each year through coal-bed methane development. Groundwater is pumped to the surface in order to capture the methane, or natural gas, trapped in deep coal seams.
Part of the proposed rules the council is considering attempts to provide specific guidelines on how much salt and sodium the discharged water can contain without damaging agriculture land and crops.
But when the council received conflicting expert testimony on the state's formula for determining salt and sodium levels in the water, it decided last year to hire a team of independent consultants to help resolve the differences. The consultants recently issued their report, saying the state's formula was scientifically flawed.
The independent report was the first ever requested by the council, which was created in 1973, according to council staff.
The council is now accepting public comment on the consultants' report and will reopen the overall rulemaking process when that is done, council Chairman Dennis Boal said.