Busy Week for Natural Gas Across the Country

fracking well padWell pad | Credit: Ecoflight


There has been a lot of activity across the country this week as states grapple with the most appropriate ways to deal with the natural gas boom.  Here are some highlights:

For America’s Most Endangered River® of 2011, the Susquehanna River, local activists surprised the Commissioners of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission by unleashing a very vocal protest of 26 water withdrawal applications for fracking.  While the Commission approved most of the withdrawals, they were overwhelmed by the protest. 

In Pennsylvania, many residents and local municipalities concerned about fracking are very upset about the legislation under negotiation in the state legislature (HB 1950).  Some of the greatest concerns with the bill are that local municipalities would no longer have the ability to limit natural gas drilling in particular zones, clean water will not be protected with the proposed provisions, and the proposed impact fee is very low compared to other states across the country.  Without local governments acting, gas companies can drill as close as 200 feet to a school, day-care, hospital, or home. Residents of Pennsylvania should let their state legislators know that this is unacceptable.

In West Virginia, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed the West Virginia Natural Gas Horizontal Well Control Act.  A special legislative committee recently proposed a bill that environmentalists described as weaker than previous versions.  However, it was still strong enough for EPA’s Jon Capacasa to declare it a “great step forward”; he suggested the proposed rules would place West Virginia “out in front” of other states, especially Pennsylvania.  Unfortunately, the final version of the Act reflects work of industry-friendly Governor Tomblin, and is described as far weaker than the special committee proposal.  

In Texas, the Texas Railroad Commission adopted rules for disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing following a charge to do so from the state legislature a few months ago.  These rules are released well ahead of the deadline set by the legislature.  Now natural gas companies in Texas must disclose the chemicals they are using to fracture wells starting February 1, 2012 on www.fracfocus.org.  Changes continue to be made to that website to increase its inclusiveness and utility.

Lastly in Colorado, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) approved a deal to institute hydraulic fracturing disclosure rules this week.  The new rules may prove to be the most stringent in the country with regard to disclosure of chemicals and concentrations used to frack natural gas wells.  The Colorado law is similar to the Texas law referenced above, however the Colorado version is a bit stronger.  The Texas regulations allow more leniencies with regard to trade secret protections. 

Also, Colorado is requiring that concentrations of chemicals be disclosed, while Texas does not require that information.  This action is a key first step to improving regulation of natural gas in Colorado, however more work needs to be done on the regulations that govern natural gas development.