In the past few weeks, two states in key shale regions joined the chorus of states that have updated their oil and gas rules to address the unique issues posed by high volume hydraulic fracturing operations. 

On December 18, South Dakota’s Board of Minerals & Environment (a subdivision of its Department of Environment & Natural Resources) proposed targeted amendments to its oil and gas well regulations.  The proposal addresses two specific substantive topics:  (1) reporting requirements for well data and chemical information on fracturing fluids to the FracFocus website; and (2) well site reclamation requirements for completed wells that are not subsequently used for production.

South Dakota is part of the large Bakken shale region, which also encompasses parts of North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming.  However, the state has not yet seen the large-scale multi-stage hydraulic fracturing activity that is now widespread in western North Dakota and other areas with tight shale formations.  The agency is accepting comments through January 9 on its proposed rules, which are scheduled to be addressed at a January 17, 2013 public hearing.  Coverage of the proposed rules also can be found here and here.

Two days later, on December 20, Alaska’s Oil & Gas Conservation Commission proposed amendments to its rules governing hydraulic fracturing in the state.  The regulations are expected to be approved in the coming months following a public comment period.  The Commission summarized the scope of its proposal as follows: 

  1. notification of landowners, surface owners, and operators within one-quarter mile of the well bore trajectory;
  2. pre and post hydraulic fracturing water well water sampling and analysis;
  3. chemical disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluids;
  4. wellbore integrity requirements; and
  5. containment of hydraulic fracturing fluids.

While Alaska has not yet seen the scale of hydraulic fracturing operations as states such as Texas, Colorado, or Pennsylvania, its potential as a shale-producing state is significant.  In an October 2012 report, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that Alaska’s North Slope could hold as much as 80 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — more than double the USGS’s estimate for the Utica shale region.  Media coverage of Alaska’s proposed rules can be found here, here, and here.