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A positive and partial outcome of the high-profile debate on fracturing: our state agencies are starting to actively discuss the importance of containing oil and gas wastes in various aspects of the drilling and production process.

In late December the Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission passed a new rule that requires the use of portable frack tanks in the Niobrara oil shale play, as well as other areas in the state where groundwater is less than sixty feet from the surface.

The WOGCC’s move to contain frack waste is a smart one, albeit long over due and narrowly focuses on containing just one toxic component of the drilling and production process — fracturing fluids.

Landowners across the West have been calling for containment and proper disposal of pit waste for years.  The Endocrine Disruption Exchange points out in an analysis of New Mexico drilling pit waste that 57% of pit chemicals found were volatile — with known health effects to the respiratory, skin and sensory, cardiovascular, developmental, reproductive, and endocrine systems.

Citizens in the Niobrara will have to contend not only with the threat of groundwater contamination from fracturing toxics, but impacts to air, water and soil from reserve, flare and completions pits. They will contend, like so many other areas in Wyoming already do, with diesel engines, compressor stations, condensate tanks, pipelines, and land farms. Industry must properly contain and control its waste not only from fracturing, but from all production processes. Portable frack tanks in select areas of the state are a small start.

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