Proposed federal fracking rules draw fire at Colorado hearing

Denver Post | Mark Jaffe

May 2, 2012
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A proposal for federal regulations on the use of "fracking" in oil land gas development on federal land drew fire from Utah, Wyoming and Colorado officials at a congressional hearing in Denver today.

The officials said state rules adequately oversee the process in which thousands or millions of gallons of fluid are pumped into wells to fracture rock to release oil and gas.

"There is no need for the federal government to step in and insert itself into a process that is working well," said Kathleen Clarke, director of the Utah Office of Public Land Policy Coordination.

The officials testified at a hearing held by the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held at the State Capitol.

The Department of Interior is considering rules on disclosure of frack fluid ingredients, management of fluids and waste water.

The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees oil and gas development on federal lands, however, has not yet issued any draft of rules.

Shawn Reese, policy director of the Wyoming governor's office, said the oil and gas industry provides $2 billion in annual revenues to the state and accounts for 20 percent of state employment.

The federal government also holds 48 percent of the land in Wyoming and 67 percent of the mineral rights, Reese said.

Reese said he was concerned that new federal rules would duplicate state regulations or add an extra layer of rules.

"The states are more nimble in addressing issues that come up," Reese said.

There are also significant geological differences between oil and gas fields that are best addressed at the state level, said Colorado Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, a Sterling Republican.

The states may be the right level for regulation but they have to prove they can do the job, said Bruce Baizel, an attorney for the environmental group Earthworks.

Baizel said that a review by his group found that in Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Pennsylvania the majority of operating wells are not annually inspected.

Less than a third of Colorado's 47,000 wells are inspected annually, Baizel said.

While 35 states have fracking regulations, only seven have had independent audits to see if they are adequate.

"States must show from on-the-ground results that they can be the primary regulators," Baizel said.

Tagged with: testimony, natural resources committee, hearing, fracking, colorado

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