Wyo. delegation: Exempt state from BLM frack rules

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming’s congressional delegation asked Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in a letter Monday to exempt Wyoming and other states that now regulate hydraulic fracturing from planned federal regulation of fracking on federal land.

Federal regulation in these states would be duplicative and impede oil and gas development, Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and Rep. Cynthia Lummis wrote.

Jewell said in releasing the draft rules in May that federal rules for fracking on federal land are needed to reconcile a patchwork of state fracking rules. Yet, she has praised Wyoming’s rules which, among other requirements, make companies provide to regulators lists of the chemicals that go into the specially formulated fluids they use to improve the fracking process.

In June, Jewell testified about fracking before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. She was asked to list which states currently regulating fracking haven’t been doing a sufficient job, but she didn’t name any, the delegation letter said.

“Your inability to identify any state suggests, at the very least, that BLM’s final rule should not apply to states currently regulating hydraulic fracturing,” the delegation wrote.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is committed to working with states that have fracking standards to avoid unnecessary duplication or delays, Interior spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw said in an email statement.

The draft rules already have been revised to take state and tribal regulation into account, Kershaw wrote.

“The rule is intended to complement the efforts of some states — including Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Texas — that have recently revised their hydraulic fracturing regulations,” she wrote.

Fracking boosts production from oil and gas wells by pumping 1 million gallons or more of pressurized water into the wells to fracture open deposits. Mixed in with the water are smaller amounts of fine sand and specially formulated fracking fluids.

The proposed new federal rules would establish standards for cementing, or pouring concrete around the outside of oil and gas wells. The new rules also would establish a means for companies to disclose to federal regulators the chemical ingredients in fracking fluids.

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved the state’s fracking rules in 2010. The rules made Wyoming one of the first states to require disclosure of fracking fluid constituents.

The commission honored the requests of most companies that asked for the ingredient lists to be shielded from public disclosure, however, citing a trade-secrets exemption in Wyoming’s open-records law. A lawsuit challenging the use of the trade-secrets exemption prompted a lawsuit from a landowners’ group, the Powder River Basin Resource Council.

The lawsuit is pending before the Wyoming Supreme Court.

An attorney for the resource council, Shannon Anderson, said she worries Interior’s proposed chemical disclosure won’t be as strong as Wyoming’s rules but still supports the federal fracking rulemaking.

“Fracking of federal lands and minerals requires federal rules,” Anderson wrote in an email. “As opposed to drawing a line in the sand, Wyoming politicians should work with BLM to improve their rules for the benefit of the state’s citizens.”