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Last week the Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (WOGCC) passed several new oil and gas rules.  These new rules are a badly needed step in the right direction and it’s important that states move forward with updating their oil and gas regulations.  

But, let’s not get too carried away with Wyoming’s good works. The cozy relationship between industry and Wyoming regulators is still very much alive and protected by a lack of adequate local, state and federal regulation that is consistently enforced.   The WOGCC appears, in part, to have taken action on new oil and gas rules as a way to avoid federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing.  Something that industry is hell bent on defeating. And, surprise, surprise, Wyoming’s new rules conveniently cuts out the public in their version of “disclosure” of fracturing fluids.  

The WOGCC now requires that industry disclose to the State:

  1. The chemicals and concentrations used in hydraulic fracturing fluids,
  2. Important information as to what pressures will be used during hydraulic fracturing, and the estimated fracture size and extent, and 
  3. The volume of hydraulic fracturing fluid pumped and retrieved during stimulation. 

While these new rules are important steps forward, let’s make no mistake that they still fall short of what surface owners and the public have been demanding:  full public disclosure of chemicals used not only in fracturing fluids (e.g., the FRAC Act), but in all oil and gas drilling processes (see Colorado Oil & Gas Rule 205).

Wyoming has taken an important and long-needed step in finally requesting basic information on fracture sizes, and volumes of fluids pumped down hole versus volumes retrieved.  Wyoming landowners, however, are right to be concerned that despite the new rules they don’t have adequate access to chemical or other important information, and the state’s Open Record’s Act may even protect industry’s attempt to claim this information as proprietary. Equally as important, because Wyoming’s rule requires disclosure to the state agency only, landowners still have no way of monitoring what chemicals industry are using in advance and conducting baseline water tests to establish the pre-drilling condition of their water. Wyoming’s new rule continues to rely on industry’s self-reporting and self-policing.  

The FRAC Act and other federal and state reforms are all still very much needed in order to ensure that adequate protections are in place. 

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