Two states recently addressed regulation of hydraulic fracturing of gas wells in two radically different ways.
The Ohio legislature has passed Senate Bill 315, to be signed by the governor, requiring reporting of information on all wells that are stimulated (If you go to the link, the new legislation is underlined). To summarize: Operators and contractors injecting substances into the formation must report the trade name and volume of all of all fluids and substances injected, the supplier of all such substances, the maximum concentration of each additive, a list of chemicals intentionally added to the fluids and the chemical abstracts service number of each.
The person making the report is allowed to withhold information protected as a trade secret. Records must be kept for two years from the date the chemical was placed in the well.
The law also requires that the source of groundwater and surface water to be used in operations and the estimated rate of withdrawal be reported. There must be sampling of water from water wells within 300 feet of operations in urbanized areas and within 1,500 feet of operations on horizontal wells. The operator is required to make agreements with local authorities for maintenance and use of roads used in connnection with horizontel wells.
The bill has detractors. Environmental groups, who are said to prefer natural gas as an energy source over coal, neverthless oppose what they call “loopholes” in the act. For example, they oppose a prohibition against physicians who learn the content of frack fluids protected as trade secrets from revealing that information to their patients.
Some environmental groups want Ohio to withhold permits for gas wells that will employ fracking until the EPA concludes its anticipated study of the process.
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the law is flawed. Legislative term limits “… let Ohio legislators off the hook for long-term consequences of short-term decisions”, and the process for permitting of gas wells means “destruction of city and village home rule by letting Statehouse lobbyists make decisions that Ohioans want to make for themselves.”
A 2004 law reserved to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources the exclusive authority to determine permitting, location and spacing of gas wells. Opponents had hoped to repeal this regulatory structure and leave such decisions to local governments.
The legislation looks like a reasoanble approach. Consider the chaos if, for example, an operator had to comply with different permitting requirements for every county and city in the state.
In a symbolic gesture devoid of meaning anywhere that could contribute to America’s energy independence, Vermont has enacted an outright ban on hydraulic fracturing. Vermont has no known gas deposits and no current or planned drilling activities.
It has been reported, but not yet verified, that the Vermont legislature has passed a bill banning a state-sponsored navy on the ground that they are opposed to war with Quebec, New York and New Hampshire.