Fracking Insider Readers: We are pleased to bring you Volume 29 of our State Regulatory Roundup, including updates in California, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. As we explained in earlier volumes, we designed the Roundup to provide quick overviews on state regulatory activity. If you have any questions on any of these summaries, please do not hesitate to ask.
California – On November 15th, the California Department of Conservation released a first draft of proposed rules to regulate hydraulic fracturing. The rules are open to a 60-day public comment period, and will be discussed in five public hearings around the state in January. Under the proposed rules, operators would be required to obtain a permit from the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) before engaging in well stimulation activities. Such permits would be posted online, and operators would be required to notify neighbors of drilling activity at least 30 days in advance of any well stimulation. Operators would be required to post information about each chemical used in hydraulic fracturing fluids on either FracFocus or another registry approved by DOGGR within 60 days. Operators would also be required to file a report with data from USGS on earthquakes in the vicinity of operations. There are provisions under which well owners could request independent baseline testing and post-fracture water quality testing. The rules are expected to be finalized and go into effect by January 1st, 2015.
Minnesota – A number of state agencies have initiated a rulemaking process to implement H.F. 976, a piece of legislation passed in May that calls for monitoring of silica sand mining. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has asserted that southeastern and south central Minnesota have extensive deposits of silica sand that meet the necessary specifications to be used in hydraulic fracturing operations. The legislation directs the MPCA, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Environmental Quality Board to develop rules to monitor sand mining, control particulate matter emissions, reclaim sand mines, establish a technical assistance team on silica sand issues, and institute a mining setback for trout streams. The Department of Health will develop a health-based air quality value for silica sand under the legislation. The agency set a value of three micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air in July. While we have not seen the issue discussed in the debate surrounding the rule, measuring ambient silica concentrations at such low levels may not be technologically feasible. State officials have said it could take 18 months to two years to complete the rulemaking process for new rules on sand mining, and given the attention on the issue, could take even longer.
Wisconsin – Environmental groups and public health advocates are asking the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to thoroughly analyze potential air quality concerns that may emerge from the increase in sand mining operations. Environmentalists argue that potentially dangerous levels of crystalline silica dust in the air from such operations have increased significantly as a result of hydraulic fracturing operations that require large quantities of silica sand. The material is used by extraction companies as a propping agent that can keep fissures open after they are hydraulically fractured. Environmentalist groups have claimed that the DNR is not doing enough to control emissions and monitor air quality, and have turned to litigation to force action. A petition filed by Midwest Environmental Advocates in July regarding an air permit issued to FTS International Services LLC for an operation in Trempealeau County could act as a test case for potentially stricter permitting requirements.
With assistance from Andrew McNamee