More fracking pro and con

17 May 2012

When it comes to fracking, things seem to be going both ways

Last month, I blogged about the issue of fracking here in Michigan and how the Democrats are going one way and the Republicans another.  It remains the hottest topic around.

On April 18, 2012, EPA published a final rule to require well developers to institute “green completion” procedures to reduce or capture the gases created during the well exploration and development process (fracking).  EPA’s final rule creates a transition period during which well developers can either reduce emissions through flaring of gases or using green completion techniques.  The transition period ends on January 1, 2015. The reason for the phase in is that enough green completion equipment isn’t available for all the fracking sites across the U.S.   Low pressure wells are exempt and developers who use green completions before the deadline may avoid applying for new permits that are normally required when an air emission source changes its process.   There are annual compliance reports required, so the senior official signing must report accurately or face significant penalties, including criminal ones.

In May, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also announced new guidance when diesel fuel is included as a component of the fracking fluid used to free the trapped gas. A 2005 amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act exempted fracking from regulation, except when diesel fuel is used.
This month, the U.S. Department of the Interior also announced a draft of new rules for fracking on federal and Indian lands.   If finalized, companies seeking to drill fracking wells on such lands will have to submit details on the layers of rock they plan to frack and how they will manage and dispose of the spent fluids. They will also have to document tests performed to ensure integrity of the seal around the well before the actual fracking begins – a point of much contention when problems have occurred.  Interestingly, only after the process is complete, will the drillers have to publicly disclose the chemicals they used in the fracking fluid.

Now, a Michigan group,  The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan has announced a petition drive to amend the Constitution to state ban the use of horizontal hydraulic fracturing in the State and to bar any person or company from accepting, disposing of, storing, or processing anywhere in the State, any flowback, residual fluids, or drill cuttings used or produced in horizontal hydraulic fracturing. They’ve got to collect some 332,000 signatures by early July – no small task and one, given how little the public knows about hydraulic fracturing, that may be impossible to meet.

Once again, there appear to be two completely opposed positions on what to do about fracking both nationally and here in Michigan.

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