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From New York to Wyoming, a busy week in fracking news

Matt Richmond
In the debate over hydrofracking in New York State, there are few impartial observers.

The past few days have been busy ones in the world of natural gas extraction:

  • New hydrofracking rules from the Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were met with complaints from both sides.
  • A New York environmental group is questioning whether the state's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) believes wastewater is a real concern.
  • And the EPA withheld a study on aquifer contamination in Wyoming at the request of the governor - who then used the delay to prepare a smear campaign.

Here's details on each:


On Friday, the Interior Department proposed new rules for fracking on public lands.

Drillers would be required to disclose the chemicals used in fracking operations within 30 days of fracturing a well. The industry-backed website FracFocus.org, where much of the information can already be found, may become the site for future disclosures.

But both sides questioned the necessity of the new rules.

Industry representatives say states have been regulating their operations for years and a new layer of oversight is unnecessary. The Natural Resources Defense Council criticizes the administration for allowing drillers to reveal the chemicals they use only after fracturing is completed.

On Friday, the EPA also proposed new rules for the use of diesel fuel in fracking operations. Environmentalists have lobbied for banning the use of diesel fuel altogether.

Both sets of proposed rules are now open for public comment.

New York

The Environmental Advocates of New York (EANY) released a report Friday that questioned the DEC's oversight of wastewater produced at the state's existing oil and gas wells.

The study's author, EANY's Katherine Nadeau, requested 100 drilling applications from the DEC.

Nadeau was looking for reporting on where wastewater is transported, what it contains and how it was to be processed. She found very few answers in the applications or in follow-up inspections by regulators.

Nadeau's organization is calling on the DEC to monitor wastewater from drilling operations under the stricter regulations currently used for "hazardous" waste.

In an e-mailed response, DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said the destination and handling of wastewater is monitored through oversight of the licensed haulers.


When it comes to the federal government's halting attempts to more fully regulate hydraulic fracturing, Wyoming has become a key battleground.

A recent EPA study found that hydrofracking in Pavillion, Wyo. had polluted nearby drinking water wells with benzene levels 50 times above normal.

That report was withheld at the request of Wyoming Governor Matt Mead.

The Associated Press reported that Mead's administration then used the delay to prepare a rebuttal to the EPA's findings.

The AP report found that Mead was primarily concerned with protecting the state's booming oil and gas industry.


Can chemicals used in fracking migrate through layers of rock into underground aquifers over the course of just a few years?

That's the question a study published in the journal Ground Water recently asked.

Through the use of computer models, the study's authors concluded that, yes, they can.

The oil and gas industry has long maintained that fracking occurs too far below the water table - in rock that is too impermeable - for chemicals to leach into drinking water supplies.

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