- Associated Press - Friday, January 9, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Several hundred people packed into an auditorium for a public meeting on oil drilling as state and industry officials explained how the government regulates petroleum development.

More drilling rigs are lighting up the horizon east of Cheyenne, but low oil prices raise doubts that brisk exploration will continue. Each deep well costs several million dollars.

Still, some in the area remain concerned.

The state can and will fine any drilling operator responsible for causing groundwater pollution, Kevin Frederick, head of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Quality Division, said at Thursday’s meeting.

“Enforcement is not a foreign word to us,” he said.

New regulations require companies to test groundwater before and after drilling begins to allow regulators to assess whether petroleum development has caused groundwater pollution, Wyoming Oil and Gas Supervisor Mark Watson said.

About 42 percent of Wyoming’s oil production now comes from horizontal wells, which companies typically develop with hydraulic fracturing, the process of pumping high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel, and chemicals underground to crack open oil- and gas-bearing deposits.

The state engineer’s office, which regulates groundwater use, has begun issuing temporary water use agreements for oil producers that employ fracking. Under the agreements, companies make use of water allocated to some other purpose, such as agriculture.

“The purpose of a temporary water use agreement is to create a net-zero impact on the water resources. So, we aren’t using any more water than is already being used for some other use,” said Lisa Lindemann from the state engineer’s office.

More than 600 petroleum companies employing more than 25,000 people now operate in the state, John Robitaille, of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle (https://bit.ly/14ayjKx ).

“These are very good, high-paying jobs. These people live in Wyoming, they work in Wyoming, and they spend their money in Wyoming,” Robitaille said.

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Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, https://www.wyomingnews.com


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