Shale Daily / NGI All News Access

Wyoming Gov. Outlines Plans for Baseline Water Tests

In addition to briefing state lawmakers Wednesday on the governor's newly released energy policy, an adviser to Gov. Matt Mead offered a joint state legislative committee a glimpse at the governor's proposed baseline water testing rule that would apply to oil and natural gas drillers.

Lawmakers were offered an oral report on the development of the rule, which is being drafted by the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (OGCC). "That should be completed in June, and it will then be put out for public comment," a spokesperson for Mead said.

Mead natural resources policy adviser Jerimiah Rieman emphasized that the proposed state testing process was not meant to be a "game-stopper" for the oil/gas industry, and whatever eventually is put in place will have to be "scientifically justifiable."

Rieman told lawmakers the state proposal is aimed at avoiding the kind of groundwater controversy that has swirled around the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) test well near Pavillion (see Shale Daily, Oct. 22, 2012; Dec. 13, 2011). He contends that the controversy has cost Wyoming "hundreds of thousands of dollars."

In briefing the state legislature's Joint Mineral, Business and Economic Development Committee, Rieman outlined some of the key provisions contemplated for the state testing rule, including the requirement that drillers conduct ongoing testing after initial baseline data is established.

Rieman said a likelihood is that exploration and production (E&P) firms will have to complete "one or two" additional tests of water supplies during production. Without the follow-up sampling, the need for the baseline tests would be questionable, he said.

E&P companies are likely to have to test registered water wells within a certain distance of planned oil/gas wells only, eliminating the need for the producers to drill their own monitoring wells, Rieman told the legislative committee, adding that the distance of the registered wells to the oil/gas wells is still being determined.

State Oil/Gas Supervisor Grant Black added that E&P operators are likely to have to test at several different depths and directions surrounding planned wells to help the state discover a leak or migration in essentially any direction.

Both industry and landowner group representatives told the joint legislative committee that they support the state's effort at establishing a water testing rule. They included Petroleum Association of Wyoming, the Farm Bureau Federation and the Powder River Basin Resource Council.

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