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Wyo. Fracking Rules Take Effect With Few Problems

Mead Gruver
Associated Press
Sep 23, 2010

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) ¯ Energy companies seem eager to comply with new state rules requiring them to disclose the chemicals they use in a controversial drilling technique known as fracking, the head of Wyoming's oil and gas regulatory agency said.

The rules apply to hydraulic fracturing, which involves pumping pressurized water, sand and chemicals down well bores to pry open fissures and facilitate the flow of oil or gas out of surrounding deposits.

 Some environmentalists say the chemicals used in the process can contaminate aquifers and water wells. The rules require companies to disclose the chemicals that go into the fracking fluids they use.

The idea is that if groundwater contamination ever occurred, fracking chemicals could be identified — or ruled out — as the source.

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved the disclosure rules in June and they went into effect Sept. 15. Oilfield services company Halliburton already appears to have disclosed chemicals used in fracking operations on the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission website.

Commission supervisor Tom Doll said companies don't seem to be looking for ways around the new rules.

"So far, so good," Doll said Tuesday. "We don't have anybody running around upset with the rule or not willing to do any of the compliance side of it. Just the contrary. Everybody's trying to make sure they're getting off on the right foot."

Few states regulate hydraulic fracturing chemicals. The 2005 federal energy bill contained a provision — environmentalists derided it as the "Halliburton loophole" — that exempted fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Congress has ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to study fracking and lawmakers have written legislation to regulate fracking on the federal level.

Wyoming passed its fracking rules to get out ahead of any federal regulation.

"I think they're necessary for the protection of the state. I also think that they're an appropriate exercise of state sovereignty," Gov. Dave Freudenthal, who is chairman of the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said Wednesday.

Freudenthal made a point of mentioning the new rules in a speech to the annual Wyoming Natural Gas Fair in Jackson last week.

"I encouraged the companies to comply not only with the letter of the law but with the spirit of the law," he said.

Companies have resisted having to disclose the ingredients in the fracking chemicals they use, saying doing so could hurt their competitive advantage. An attorney for Halliburton told the commission in April that companies shouldn't have to disclose small quantities of constituent chemicals in fracking fluid.

The rules enacted give companies 30 days after completing a well to disclose in a report all chemicals used in fracking on that well, Doll said.

Environmentalists said they're watching how the state implements the rules.

"I guess I'm hopeful," said Steve Jones, an attorney with the Wyoming Outdoor Council. "I'm hoping that it will help people who live near some of these fracking operations find out what chemicals are being used."