April 16, 2014

Unicameral debates new regulations on drillers using “fracking”

Sen. Norm Wallman

Sen. Norm Wallman

New information would be required from oil and natural gas drillers in Nebraska under legislation (LB 635) before state lawmakers. The bill’s author, Senator Norm Wallman of Cortland, says companies using the process called “fracking” would have to provide more detail. Wallman says the bill adds elements proposed by the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

“The only difference between the bill and their proposed changes was an additional sentence on page 10 including the amount and source of water used for the stimulation and the amount of fracturing fluid recovered,” Wallman says. “The reason I added that line is because water, water — that is Nebraska’s number-one resource.”

One opponent to Wallman’s bill is William Sydow, the director of Nebraska’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Sydow says the process of hydraulic fracking has been used in Nebraska since the 1950s.

“We always assumed there might be some kind of treatment required but we don’t require it and LB-635 would require that,” Sydow says. “When that well is completed, those operators have to report back to us. The stimulation record for this well, they tell us and we have collected since 1959, the volumes, the fluid types and the amounts. We never collected the components but they’re very benign.”

Senator Wallman said he’s not passing judgment on the use of fracking.

“I’m not making any claims to if I feel fracking is safe or not,” he says. “I just want to assist the Oil and Gas Commission in making the process more transparent.”

Sydow said the commission is in the process of rulemaking for the use of fracking, a process that began in March of last year. He says finalized regulations are expected to be in place sometime this summer.

“I’ll say this for the record, we’ve never had an incident of a fracturing fluid ever contaminating the ground water in Nebraska,” Sydow says. “and I’ll go on record and say, as a regulator, and I have 29 other peers in the United States, there’s not one case of a fracture fluid ever contaminating ground water in the United States.”

Wallman is getting support testimony for his bill from representatives of the Nebraska chapters of the Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club.

By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice