Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead is considering a pre-drilling water testing requirement for oil and natural gas operators in the state.

While characterizing his energy strategy as “pretty much ready to go,” Mead said during a press conference that the state’s near-final energy plan, in part, deals with various environmental concerns raised by conservation groups.

The oil and natural gas industry, he said, has indicated that baseline data would make a clearer assessment when, and if, drilling results in groundwater contamination or other unwanted environmental impacts. He cited the issue of ozone two years ago as an example of where the industry has said it could have avoided what it considered unwarranted blame if baseline data had been available.

“I think the same thing applies to air and water,” Mead said. Establishing baseline testing for operators “will be worth the money and the effort,” he said.

“We want to know if something is being damaged in the environment, and we want to know the cost of that.” Concerns about water contamination from drilling in Pavillion, WY, have been complicated by a lack of baseline testing (see Shale Daily, Feb. 8, 2012).

Mead said having the baseline data “helps avoid the issues we have seen emerge in the state, and it helps us be a little more proactive.”

In the meantime, Mead spokesperson Renny MacKay said the full energy plan is not ready. “We are trying to finalize it, but the exact date of release is not set.” The draft has drawn “an amazing amount” of public participation.

Another Mead adviser told reporters earlier this week that Wyoming is considering the water sampling rules put in place in Colorado, which could provide a blueprint for baseline rules (see Shale Daily, Jan. 10). Still unresolved is which existing state agency would be given enforcement powers: the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (OGCC), which oversees drilling, or the Department of Environmental Quality, which regulates pollution laws.

“We know the minerals are in certain parts of the state; we know they are going to be developed, so we need to get in there and start the process of establishing an environmental baseline to see where we are,” Mead said.

The state issued thousands of coalbed and non-coalbed oil and gas drilling permits last year, including 544 permits to Lance Oil & Gas Co. and another 318 to Ultra Resources Inc., according to OGCC data. EOG Resources, WPX Energy, Chesapeake Energy and Anadarko E&P were each issued 200 or more permits in 2012.