Alaska adopts strict new rules for fracking. What about Montana?

It’s interesting to see what other states do while Montana twiddles its thumbs.

Alaska’s oil and gas regulatory body has adopted new rules governing hydraulic fracturing that include increased testing of water wells for contamination. Final regulations are now being reviewed by state attorneys before they are signed by the Lieutenant Governor.

Cathy Foerster
Cathy Foerster, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission

The rules will require testing of all water wells within a half-mile radius of a well to be fractured, and will mandate testing of the water wells for contamination after the fracture job is completed, said Cathy Foerster, chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC). In some cases, testing of water wells prior to the fracturing may be required at the discretion of the commission.

The rule will also require disclosure of chemicals used in fracturing fluids and for the chemicals to be reported to FracFocus, a national website maintained for public disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. The disclosure requirements are similar to what other states require and will adequately protect the trade secrets of service companies working on frac jobs, Foerster said.

Predictable reaction from the industry:

“Our concern is that these regulations will result in substantial costs without providing any real tangible benefit to the public, as most hydraulic fracture treatments in Alaska take place thousands of feet below any drinking water,” said Kara Moriarity, executive director of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association.

Foerster talked about the reasons why the Alaska Oil and Gas Commission is taking these steps:

We’ve been hydraulic fracturing wells in Alaska for over 40 years. About a quarter of all wells drilled in Alaska have been fractured. The rule update has been a multi-year effort, first to keep up with technology advances, second to address fracturing fluids disclosure and water quality monitoring and third to gather all of our regulatory requirements into a section titled hydraulic fracturing, to make it easier for the public to see how we are regulating hydraulic fracturing.

Compare that to the chicanery that goes on with the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation, which rubber stamps anything the industry puts in front of it. Why does one state focus on technology, transparency and water quality while another does whatever the oil and gas industry wants? Alaska’s new rules aren’t revolutionary, but they recognize the significant impact of fracking on water.

Montana needs reform.

About davidjkatz

The Moses family has lived on the Stillwater River since 1974, when George and Lucile Moses retired and moved to the Beehive from the Twin Cities. They’re gone now, but their four daughters (pictured at left, on the Beehive) and their families continue to spend time there, and have grown to love the area. This blog started as an email chain to keep the family informed about the threat of increased fracking activity in the area, but the desire to inform and get involved led to the creation of this blog.
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