States target hydraulic fracturing with bans, fines

A worker helps monitor water pumping pressure and temperature, at the site of a natural gas hydraulic fracturing and extraction operation run by Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc., outside Rifle, in western Colorado. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

A worker helps monitor water pumping pressure and temperature, at the site of a natural gas hydraulic fracturing and extraction operation run by Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc., outside Rifle, in western Colorado. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

As the North American natural gas boom continues, state legislators across the country have targeted hydraulic fracturing for new regulations, proposing a range of 50 bills involving bans, moratoriums and increased disclosure requirements, according to a new Colorado State University study.

Much of the new legislation tries to address issues such as water use, air and water quality monitoring and fluids disclosure, as many non-industrial communities grapple with the impacts of hydraulic fracturing and the changes it brings.

For example, Illinois passed new rules in May requiring drillers to publicly disclose the chemicals they use, and on water testing.

And while hydraulic fracturing has existed for more than 50 years in parts of the country, such as Texas, the bulk of the new state rules are coming from the East Coast, where the shale boom has led to a new surge of oil and gas activity.

“Bans are clustered on the northern seaboard,” wrote Colorado State University’s Center on the New Energy Economy.

For example, New York State has introduced 10 new bills – the largest number of any state – as environmental concerns led New York legislators to extend the state’s moratorium on the practice until 2015.

Federal regulators have also begun to develop plans for increased natural gas regulation. The Obama administration introduced a new plan in May to tighten standards for drilling on public lands, including more rigorous chemical disclosure requirements.

The proposal would be the first major federal rule governing hydraulic fracturing but would apply only to U.S. land under the Interior Department’s control.

State lawmakers also have tried to address growing concerns about surface and mineral rights, introducing 50 bills in 2013 that made proposals regarding notification periods before drilling, post-drilling property restoration and setback or right-of-way property restrictions, the Center report said.

Concern over how natural gas drilling impacts local communities was another hot topic, with 30 new pieces of legislation introduced to address it. Issues such as permitting and zoning ordinances, requirements for safety monitoring devices and regulations on underground storage have been the focus on these proposed rules.

Additional bills have sought to provide revenue for local infrastructure and social program needs.

An additional 33 bills have targeted taxation issues, most of which address severance or production issues.

“States seek to strike a balance between attracting development and maintaining funding for a variety of programs,” the Center wrote.

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