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Montana Regulators Weighing Fracking Rules

Montana's Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) is considering new rules to regulate hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) activities in the state and has scheduled a public hearing on proposed rules for June 15.

If Montana regulators adopt hydrofracking rules the state will join a handful of others to do so, and Texas, where lawmakers recently passed legislation that eventually would require frack fluid chemical disclosure (see Shale Daily, June 1). If the Texas bill is signed by the governor, the law would be a template for other states to follow, Texas lawmakers said.

Legislation to require fracking disclosures has been introduced in Montana but did not advance to passage. The state's most recent legislative session ended in April. Regulators in Arkansas, Wyoming and Michigan require some form of disclosure, but it is not state law.

Montana's proposed rules "are reasonably necessary in order to address safety issues associated with techniques used for oil and gas well completions," the DNRC said in its hearing notice. "These techniques include hydraulic fracturing, which has become more prevalent throughout the United States in recent years."

DNRC would require producers/operators to include "processes, anticipated volumes and types of materials planned for use" in frack jobs in well permit applications. For wildcat or exploratory wells, written approval for fracking would need to be obtained in advance of well stimulation by at least 24 hours.

Disclosure of frack fluids would need to include "the amount and type(s) of material pumped and the rates and maximum pressure during treatment." However, the rules being considered would allow for the protection of trade secrets.

"...[W]here the use or composition of a chemical product is unique to the owner or operator or service contractor and would if disclosed reveal methods or processes entitled to protection as trade secrets, such a chemical need not be disclosed to the board or staff," the notice said.

The Montana hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. MDT June 15 at the Richland County Fairgrounds Building in Sidney, MT.

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