A proposed Wyoming Senate bill (Senate File 157) that would require baseline groundwater testing by oil and natural gas operators before drilling begins has stirred up controversy, with industry officials questioning whether the law is needed.

The proposal would put into law rules initially adopted in 2010 by the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which included disclosure requirements for chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing (fracking). The measure also would provide the ability to challenge some claims of “trade secrets” in fracking chemicals used. Responsibility for implementing SF 157 would fall to the state regulators.

Despite the failure in past attempts, State Sen. Floyd Esquibel (D-Cheyenne) said the rules would provide “scientifically defensible” test results for water sources near newly drilled wells.

However, the Petroleum Association of Wyoming (PAW) said many of its members already conduct tests.

PAW Vice President John Robitaille told NGI that the “shadow” of the controversial U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water tests conducted near gas production sites in in Pavillion, WY, is attached to the legislation (see Shale Daily, Oct. 8, 2012).

The association plans to testify if the measure comes up in the Senate Minerals Committee, however, Robitaille cautioned that state regulators were better able to set rulemakings over state legislators.

“Our legislature meets once a year [this year through the end of February], so it would be very difficult to get [a law] changed very quickly if we needed to do so,” he said. “So in that context, I don’t think putting something like this into law is the appropriate way to go.”

Landowner groups have publicly supported establishing baselines for water before drilling begins. The Powder River Basin Resource Council recently published a list of recommended ways to protect groundwater in the state.