Wyoming’s governor is asking the Interior Department for more time to study its proposed rules for the use of hydraulic fracturing on federal land.
The request by Gov. Matt Mead, announced today, joins similar and separate requests sent by a state industry group, county commissioners and a key committee of state legislators.
In his letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Mead questioned the need for the rule due to its similarities with Wyoming’s first-in-the-nation rules for fracking in effect since 2010.
Interior’s Bureau of Land Management hasn’t expressed any concern about Wyoming’s rules that govern the oil and gas industry practice, Mead wrote.
“The State of Wyoming needs time to adequately assess how the proposed rule will impact our state — for example, Wyoming’s budget, local government funding, and jobs,” Mead wrote.
The deadline for comment on the rules, unveiled early last month, is July 10. Mead is requesting a 90-day extension.
Similar concerns have already driven the Wyoming County Commissioners’ Association and the Petroleum Association of Wyoming to send letters also requesting more time to consider the rules.
Both Mead and Bruce Hinchey, president of the petroleum association, cited estimates of the rule’s economic impact on industry that run from $60 million to $1.4 billion.
“Even if they’re half-way correct, that’s a big number,” said Hinchey, referring to the $60 million figure.
The commissioners’ association sent the letter “just to to allow some additional time for analysis,” said Cindy DeLancey, executive director of the association. “It’s pretty complicated, you know, and just some additional time to evaluate would be helpful.”
Last week lawmakers on the state Legislature’s Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee voted to send a letter to the Interior Department also requesting more time.
Fracking is a process crucial to nearly all new natural gas wells in the state. Operators pump water, sand and chemicals underground to break open pathways for oil and gas to flow.
The practice has sparked concern it could break open access to drinking water supplies and is a celebrated cause for many environmental groups.
While large-scale tests are under way to determine the practice’s effect — if any — on groundwater, Wyoming has regulated the process for nearly two years and the Interior Department is just now proposing similar rules for the practice.
The federal rules do differ in some respects from Wyoming’s regulations, and state and industry officials have previously expressed concern that the rules would effectively double-up regulation of the practice in some parts of Wyoming.