The first-ever proposed rules for hydraulic fracturing could be an example of too much of a good — and we’d add — necessary thing.
This week, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s draft of federal hydraulic fracturing rules was leaked. The document is getting plenty of scrutiny in places including Wyoming, which is reliant upon fracturing for continued oil and gas production in the state.
We’d argue that like in all extraction and mining processes, hydraulic fracturing should be subject to rules, regulations and best practices. And, we’d also argue that government has a legitimate role to play in formulating those rules and then enforcing them.
However, if the BLM adopts these rules it could be too much of a good thing. Let’s explain: Wyoming is one of about a dozen states that have adopted hydraulic fracking guidelines and laws. And much of what is contained in the BLM draft is already a part of Wyoming law. Therefore, if the federal agency adopts the rules, it could lead to few differences but a different set of hoops to have to jump through for energy companies. Time lost will be money lost and the additional cost of doing business might shrink development in the state that brings in jobs, fills tax coffers and spurs economic development.
It could also create a situation where Wyoming issues a fracking permit, but the BLM doesn’t. Or, vice versa. Or a scenario could emerge where the red-tape at the federal level delays projects that would otherwise be moving forward in Wyoming.
Two nearly identical processes seem not only redundant but ridiculous.
Instead, we’d suggest the BLM adopt language that would exempt states that already have fracking rules in place so long as the respective state rules mirror federal regulation or are even more strict. We don’t believe federal officials can offer any reason why two sets of standards and two permitting processes are necessary.
In this respect, if the federal agency adopts fracking rules it would punish Wyoming for doing the right thing by regulating industry in the first place.
It is worthwhile to note that while the federal draft rules and Wyoming’s law run parallel in many ways, they are not identical. Several groups have been quick to point out the federal fracking rules have more stringent standards for water used in the fracking process.
We’d suggest the situation is ripe for a little bit of give and take. Wyoming could afford to take the more restrictive parts pertaining to fracking water, but the federal government should be willing to give the state control to monitor and permit fracking procedures.
Given the rebirth of oil and gas drilling that’s taken place from Pennsylvania to Texas, it’s clear fracking isn’t just a procedure limited to Wyoming or a select few states. It’s a good thing the federal government is involved, especially when the lack of state regulation could lead to some corners being cut in other areas of the country.
But here in Wyoming, our laws and regulations have served us well.
More laws won’t solve anything.
In Wyoming, it ain’t broke, so to speak. Let’s not try to fix fracking federally.