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Utah passes a new fracking disclosure rule

November 16, 2012
by Laurel Hagen

An oil rig near Canyonlands National Park
An oil rig near Canyonlands National Park


On Wednesday, October 24th, the Board of the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining passed a new rule requiring that an oil company using “fracking” in drilling practices must publicly disclose the chemicals used.

Until Wednesday, the state of Utah did not have a requirement for public disclosure of fracking chemicals. The UDOGM vote added a single sentence to state rules on drilling:

“Chemical disclosure. 1.1. The amount and type of chemicals used in a hydraulic fracturing operation shall be reported to within 60 days of hydraulic fracturing completion for public disclosure.”

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a term for a technique that involves injecting liquid chemicals into a deep well underground at high pressure. This practice fractures underground rock layers with the goal of increasing the output of a petroleum well by releasing trapped liquids and gases, making them easier to extract. Fracking is becoming increasingly popular among drilling companies as they attempt to recover less easily extracted sources of oil and gas.

Fracturing underground rock layers can lead to contamination of groundwater sources by allowing previously isolated water layers to mix with petroleum or fracking liquids. There have been many alleged cases of groundwater contamination around the country, mostly in the northeastern states where population densities bring fracking into close contact with drinking water sources.

In the west, the nearest documented case of fracking contamination comes from an EPA report on Pavilion, Wyoming.

Fracking, in various ways, has been happening in Utah for a long time. However, more recent of oil and gas leases auctions near populated areas combined with the increase in the use of fracking have led to increased concerns from Utah citizens about groundwater contamination.

Fourteen states in the US have passed rules requiring public disclosure, to some degree, of any chemicals injected into the ground for “well stimulation.” This helps nearby residents, cancer researchers, health care providers and local governments to be warned of potentially harmful chemicals entering their water supplies.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, in a review of fracking disclosure requirements in different states, puts Wyoming’s rules at the top of the list in several categories. Wyoming’s fracking rule is approximately three pages long, and has a number of specific requirements regarding the manner of reporting.

The Board, characterizing this rule as a good start, scheduled a revisitation of the topic for their July 2013 meeting, which gives the public an opportunity to participate more fully in the crafting of the rule.

While the new rule is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, the state will need to take several more steps to make public disclosure rules effective, and to bring them closer in line with those of other states. Much of the drilling in Utah is overseen by the Bureau of Land Mangement (BLM), and the BLM is currently in the process of drafting its own fracking disclosure rule.

CWC plans to work with the State of Utah, the BLM and fracking experts to help assist in drafting effective rules in the months to come.



Updated Nov. 2012: Official Notice from UDOGM to Operators

Notice of Agency Action, UDOGM, proposed rule

UDOGM staff memo regarded proposed fracking rule

NRDC report on fracking disclosure regulations

UDOGM fact sheet on hydraulic fracturing

EPA press release on groundwater contamination in Pavilion, Wyoming

Wyoming Operational Rules on oil and gas drilling (fracking rules is near the end, Section 45)

Tulsa World article on drilling near the Colorado River

Salt Lake Tribune article on fracking controversy in Utah

Comment letter from Western Energy Alliance

Comment letter from Devon Energy Corporation


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