Fracking Opens Problems Among States
27th December 2011
Pennsylvania regulators ordered Chesapeake Energy Corp. to install pressure gauges costing as little as $600 on 114 of its wells after natural gas contaminated drinking water last year.
Officials rejected a call from environmental groups to order safety devices for all similar natural-gas wells, a requirement in neighboring Ohio.
A boom in gas production using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has led to a patchwork of local drilling standards. Now, several states are revising or formulating rules, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is studying the effects of fracking on drinking water and weighing nationwide regulations.
“What you’re seeing now is the federal government trying to get into the game of regulating hydraulic fracturing for the very first time,” Ken von Schaumburg, a Washington-based attorney and former EPA deputy general counsel in George W. Bush’s administration, said in a statement.
States are moving more aggressively as gas extracted from shale has expanded to a third of total U.S. production, up from 2 percent in 2001.
West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin backed a bill approved by the state legislature on Dec. 14 that he said“provides clear rules to the natural gas industry.” Colorado regulators on Dec. 13 approved requiring drillers to disclose every chemical used in fracking.
Extracting gas from shale will support 870,000 U.S. jobs and add $118 billion in economic growth in the next four years, according to a Dec. 6 report from IHS Global Insight, a forecaster based in Englewood, Colorado..
Rules on using gas-pressure gauges vary, as do regulations on the types of cement used for the wells, how close to drinking-water sources companies can drill and how they dispose of the waste after injecting millions of gallons of water and chemicals underground to free the gas.
“Part of it is a matter of commitment,” Scott Anderson, senior policy adviser for the Environmental Defense Fund in Austin, Texas, said in a statement. “Some states are more diligent than others about systematically reviewing all their rules and updating them.”
The disparities led Anderson to join gas producers such asSouthwestern Energy Co. and groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club to develop voluntary state drilling standards.
The collaboration will help the industry “gain the public trust and acceptance,” Mark Boling, executive vice president for Houston-based Southwestern Energy, said in a statement.
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