CHEYENNE — Wyoming’s oil and gas supervisor said Friday that he’s begun reviewing more than 50 written comments on proposed changes to the agency’s rules and regulations for development, including hydraulic fracturing.
Thomas Doll said he plans to incorporate substantive comments into the rules before they go before the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission next month.
“There are substantive comments and then there are editorial comments. I can only deal with the substantive comments,” Doll said.
An informal public discussion on the proposed rules is planned Tuesday, followed by a public hearing April 14. Both meetings will be at the commission office in Casper.
One of the more contentious issues in the proposed rules is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process involves pumping pressurized water, sand and chemicals underground to split rock and improve the flow of oil and gas.
Fracking has been used extensively in Wyoming’s vast gas fields. The commission is considering several detailed rules for fracking, including requiring companies to disclose “proprietary chemical component detail” of fracking fluids.
Some in Congress have advocated requiring companies to begin disclosing such information under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
The proposed state rules also would require wells undergoing hydraulic fracturing to be cased in a way that prevents groundwater contamination. Companies also would need to be aware of all permitted water wells within a quarter-mile of an oil or gas well being fracked.
Industry officials say fracking hasn’t been shown to contaminate groundwater.
“It’s a pretty proven process,” said Bruce Hinchey, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming. “Everything that goes along with it is very well tested and the engineering and the science that goes behind it, the technology, has been there a long time now.”
Wyoming already regulates hydraulic fracturing effectively and any new rules should avoid redundancy while being concise and specific, said Darci Sinclair, a spokeswoman for Shell, one of the operators in the Pinedale Anticline gas field in western Wyoming.
The petroleum association and Shell submitted comments on the proposed rules.
Environmental groups and the Powder River Basin Resource Council, a landowner group, say the proposed rules are a good step but that more should be done to protect groundwater.
“If they’re exploring for oil, it’s a resource that we need right now,” said John Fenton, chairman of the group Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens. “But if we turn around and sacrifice the really essential resources like air and water, we’re making a huge mistake.”
Fenton grows hay in the Pavillion area in central Wyoming, where fracking is suspected of contaminating several local water wells, including Fenton’s. Fenton said he has been getting his drinking water from elsewhere for almost a year.
The Environmental Protection Agency has been investigating the contamination and expects to release findings in May. The EPA announced last week a national study of whether fracking generally can contaminate water supplies.