Environmental groups are urging the Bureau of Land Management to quickly develop a plan for preventing future groundwater pollution in the Pinedale Anticline gas fields.
The BLM released a report this week that said groundwater contamination in the area was mostly not a result of natural gas production. But Bruce Pendery with the Wyoming Outdoor Council says regulators still need to be vigilant in preventing potential future problems.
The Wyoming Supreme Court heard a case Wednesday challenging the state’s process for exempting fracking chemicals from public disclosure. Wyoming was the first state in the nation to adopt a disclosure law, but it included what some say is a massive loophole: companies can petition for what’s called a trade secret exemption. They’ve done that more than a hundred times since the law went into effect in 2010.
On Tuesday, Wyoming joined the growing list of states that will require groundwater testing at oil and gas wells before and after drilling occurs. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted to require three rounds of testing at water wells within a half-mile of the drilling pad.
Companies will have to test for a variety of potential contaminants in the water, from volatile organic compounds to bacteria. In comments following the vote, Governor Matt Mead praised his fellow commissioners for approving the rules.
Three conservation organizations have released a series of web videos, encouraging Wyomingites to improve water quality.
The videos highlight best management practices some landowners are using to handle E. coli, selenium and sediment, among other issues.
Kathy Rosenthal is the watershed coordinator for the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts, one of the partner groups producing the videos. Rosenthal acknowledged a lack of awareness as one of the major obstacles for Wyoming’s water quality going forward.
Wyoming State Engineer Pat Tyrrell has placed restrictions on groundwater use near LaGrange in Goshen County.
Tyrrell says there’s not enough water to go round in the Horse Creek Basin, and that groundwater and surface water in the area are connected. That means people with wells could be taking water that surface water users are entitled to.
Several groups submitted comments Thursday on the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s draft rule for groundwater testing in the state. The rule would require that energy companies test groundwater quality before and after oil and gas drilling.
Richard Garrett is a policy analyst with the Wyoming Outdoor Council, one of the groups that submitted comments. He says his group and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) made recommendations that they hope will close any potential loopholes in the law.
The Department of Energy says that the high levels of uranium at a contaminated site on Wind River Reservation might not flush out of the groundwater naturally in 100 years, like they previously thought.
Tailings from a uranium mill that functioned at the Riverton Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act site in the 1960s left the area’s groundwater with high levels of uranium and the DOE took over management of the site in the late ‘80s.
An energy group says a recently released report overstated issues of water use by the oil and gas industry. The Western Organization of Resource Councils released the report last month and said regulators need to consider the quantity of water the energy industry uses, in addition to the quality.
The Environmental Protection Agency is asking for more information from Encana Oil and Gas before signing off on the company’s request for an aquifer exemption. Encana wants to pump waste water into the Madison Aquifer from their oil and gas field in the Moneta Divide. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has already approved the request, but the EPA says the modeling of the plume that Encana did is too broad and the agency wants more information about why, according to Encana, the relatively clean water can’t be used for other purposes .
The state engineer’s office says in parts of Laramie and Goshen Counties, demand for water appears to exceed supply.
State Engineer Pat Tyrrell says groundwater and surface water are connected in that area, so people who draw down the water in their wells are affecting water in streams, which means less water flows into the Hawk Spring Reservoir. He says there hasn’t been enough water to go around for quite some time.
The Powder River Basin Resource Council has drawn up a list of recommendations to protect groundwater resources during energy production.
The group’s Jill Morrison says they want the state to document how much water is available in aquifers, and to limit how much water can be used for oil and gas production in certain areas where water resources are scarce.
“Because we know, for example, in the Powder River Basin, we’ve really drawn down our main aquifer that supplies domestic use … through the coalbed methane development,” Morrison said.
The U.S. Geological Survey has released new data about groundwater testing near Pavillion. The testing was meant to provide additional information about whether hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, caused water contamination there.
Keith Guille with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality says no one quite knows what the results mean yet, because the USGS only provided raw numbers, not analysis.