Lawmakers in the Vermont House of Representatives were to vote Friday on a bill that would ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the Green Mountain State and require regulators with the state Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) to submit a report by 2015 on the best ways to regulate the practice.
A reconciled version of bill H464 in the State Legislature calls for an outright ban on fracking and for the secretary of the ANR to report recommendations to three committees -- the Senate and House Committees on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Fish, Wildlife & Water Resources -- by Jan. 15, 2015. The secretary would then have another year to submit another report, this one with a summary of findings from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on fracking (see Shale Daily, Oct. 21, 2011; July 29, 2011).
The bill still needs to pass the House and the state Senate before being sent to Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. It was not clear if Shumlin, a foe of nuclear power, would sign the bill.
Although the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) doesn't list Vermont among states with crude oil or natural gas production, a report by Laurence Becker -- director of the Vermont Geological Survey and the state's geologist -- reported that the Stony Point Shale formation in northern Vermont has similarities to the Utica Shale in southern Quebec. Northern Vermont is also home to the Iberville Shale.
The original version of H464 -- introduced on Jan. 3 by Reps. Tony Klein (D-East Montpelier) and Peter Peltz (D-Woodbury) -- called for a fracking ban on the grounds that operators could not guarantee the practice would not contaminate underground water supplies. The House substituted the ban for a three-year moratorium on Feb. 1, but the Senate voted 27-1 to reinstate the ban on April 19.
Six lawmakers in the state Committee of Conference -- Reps. Robert Krebs (D-South Hero), James McCullough (D-Williston), and Kathryn (D-Shelburne) and Sens. Joseph Benning (R-Lyndonville), Virginia Lyons (D-Williston) and Mark McDonald (D-Williamstown) -- crafted the compromise version of H464.