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Shale & Fracking Tracker

News & Flashes

  • 23
  • December
  • 2015

Wyoming DEQ Draft Final Report Concludes that Upward Migration of Fracturing Fluids at Depth Is Unlikely

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality ("WDEQ") has released its draft final report in response to resident concerns alleging a link between well water taste and odor issues in the Pavillion Gas Field and hydraulic fracturing activity. In contrast to a 2011 draft report by the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA"), which concluded that hydraulic fracturing fluids may have impacted groundwater in the Pavillion Gas Field, WDEQ's draft final report concludes that "[i]t is unlikely that hydraulic fracturing fluids have risen to shallower depths intercepted by water-supply wells." This finding is consistent with EPA's 2015 draft hydraulic fracturing study, which did not identify any instances where fluids migrated from the factures made in rock formations more than a mile below the surface up into aquifers that could be potential sources of drinking water. Like other recent studies, WDEQ further concludes that well construction issues present the "most probable pathway for gas or other fluids to reach shallow depths" via seepage along the wellbore. WDEQ is accepting public comment on its draft final report through March 18, 2016. Read WDEQ's draft final report in full here.

  • 17
  • December
  • 2015

SAB Panel Reviews EPA's Draft Hydraulic Fracturing Study

An EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) panel recently released an early version of its recommendations regarding the Agency's closely-followed hydraulic fracturing study. A draft of the study was issued by EPA's Office of Research and Development in June 2015, finding that while water supply "vulnerabilities" exist, hydraulic fracturing does not have "widespread, systemic impacts" on drinking water. Despite EPA's insistence that the report is not designed to inform specific policies, commentators have paid close attention because of the study's potential role in the ongoing debate regarding further regulation of the industry.

The SAB panel's review, presented in a "Preliminary Summary Responses" document, is the latest development in this discussion and may impact the final version of the study. Among other comments, the SAB panel report indicates that it is not clear how EPA's statement of no widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water "reflects the uncertainties and data limitations the data described" in the draft study. The SAB panel recommends that the Agency revise its statements of findings "to be more precise and specific, and to clearly draw from the body of the report."

In response to the SAB's recommendations, EPA could potentially amend its prior finding of no widespread, systemic impacts. The SAB is expected to issue a final report with consensus advice in the spring of 2016. EPA still plans to issue its final hydraulic fracturing study in 2016. EPA has faced criticism over its previous groundwater investigations in Pavillion, Wyoming; Parker County, Texas; and Dimock, Pennsylvania.

EIA Releases Shale Resource Assessments for Four New Countries

The United States Energy Information Administration ("EIA") has released its first estimates of the technically recoverable shale oil and natural gas resources in Chad, Kazakhstan, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates ("UAE"). EIA examined a total of 26 formations in 11 basins across the four countries. Out of the four countries, the UAE has the largest technically recoverable reserves of both shale/tight oil and shale gas in-place, with an estimated 22.6 billion barrels and 205 trillion cubic feet, respectively. Because there is no active shale exploration in these countries, EIA classified their reserves as "technically recoverable" rather than "economically recoverable." EIA has now assessed shale oil and natural gas resources across 46 countries. Read EIA's blog post detailing its new estimates here, and access EIA's full set of World Shale Resource Assessments here.

  • 18
  • September
  • 2015

Proposed Rule to Define "Adjacent" for Oil and Gas Source Determinations

In September 2015, EPA published a proposed rule to clarify the definition of "adjacent" for the purpose of making source determinations under the Clean Air Act PSD, NNSR, and Title V programs as applied to the oil and natural gas sector. The proposed rulemaking aims to streamline the permitting process and produce more consistent source determinations under the preceding programs. The Agency also intends for the rule to address uncertainty created by prior Agency guidance on adjacency and recent litigation. The new definition may significantly affect the applicability of permitting requirements to activities in the oil and gas sector under the PSD, NNSR, and Title V programs.

  • 18
  • September
  • 2015

Source:

  • Source

The Clock has Started on EPA's Newly Proposed Rules for the Oil and Gas Sector

On September 18, 2015, EPA published two proposed rules for the oil and gas sector in the Federal Register: (1) New Source Performance Standards for methane and volatile organic compound ("VOC") emissions, and (2) new methods of defining the terms "source" and "adjacent" that may significantly affect the applicability of major source permitting programs to activities in the oil and gas sector. This publication is significant because it starts the clock for the 60-day public comment period, which will close on November 17, 2015. The date is also significant because once the rules are finalized they will apply retroactively to any oil or gas "affected facility" built or modified after September 18th. More information about these proposals and the impacts that they could have on the oil and gas sector is available here and here.

  • 24
  • June
  • 2015

Federal Court Prevents New BLM Hydraulic Fracturing Regulations From Going into Effect

The U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM)'s new hydraulic fracturing regulations for Federal and Indian lands will not go into effect today as originally planned. In a challenge to the rule led by the State of Wyoming, the district court has stayed the effective date of the new rule until BLM submits its administrative record for the rule and the parties are able to cite to the record in their arguments. The district court will then determine whether the rule should be further stayed from going into effect until the resolution of this lawsuit. While the judge indicated that he is likely to rule on whether to extend the stay by the end of the summer, the new rule will not be in effect for at least the next few weeks. More information about BLM's new rule is available here

The case is State of Wyoming v. United States Department of the Interior Secretary , No. 2:15-cv-00043 (D. Wy.).

  • 17
  • June
  • 2015

Railroad Commission Holds Second "Show Cause" Seismicity Hearing

On Monday, another operator of a North Texas oil and gas wastewater disposal well appeared before the Railroad Commission's Hearings Division to "show cause" why its injection permit should not be revoked in light of a Southern Methodist University (SMU) study linking wastewater injection activities to North Texas seismicity. A summary of the hearing is available here.

  • 11
  • June
  • 2015

Railroad Commission Holds First "Show Cause" Seismicity Hearing

An operator of a North Texas disposal well appeared before the Railroad Commission's Hearings Division on Wednesday to "show cause" why its injection permit should not be revoked in light of a Southern Methodist University (SMU) study linking oil and gas wastewater injection activities to North Texas seismicity. A summary of the hearing is available here.

  • 05
  • June
  • 2015

Today's Railroad Commission Workshop Previews Upcoming Show Cause Hearings

Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton held a workshop today to review the results of a Southern Methodist University study regarding induced seismicity in North Texas. A summary of the workshop is available here.

  • 04
  • June
  • 2015

EPA Releases Draft Assessment of Fracking Impacts on Drinking Water

On June 4, 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") released a draft of its Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources. Issuance of the draft report is the latest milestone in EPA's plan to study the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, an effort that began in 2011. Today's draft report is the first document to set forth EPA's likely conclusions. The draft report concludes that, while "there are above and below ground mechanisms by which hydraulic fracturing activities have the potential to impact drinking water resources," EPA "did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States." Although EPA found the number of identified cases of drinking water resource contamination "small" in comparison to the number of hydraulically fractured wells, the draft report leaves open the question of whether this finding reflects "a rarity of effects" on drinking water resources or is the result of various "limiting factors," such as data quality and availability. Additionally, most of the small number of "impacts on drinking water resources" identified by EPA appear to be attributable to surface spills and releases rather than to the fracturing activity itself.

The draft report is subject to public review and comment beginning on June 5, 2015. In addition, EPA has asked its Science Advisory Board ("SAB") to peer review the draft report. EPA will issue a final report following completion of the public comment and SAB review processes. Read the full draft report here. Check back for more detailed analysis of the draft report next week.

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