Do new federal fracking rules duplicate existing state laws?

Some are raising concerns that federal rules requiring oil and gas companies to disclose the chemical ingredients used in the fracking process may duplicate state laws already in place. Wyoming has had a chemical-disclosure rule in effect since 2010. 

Critics of new rules for oil and gas development on federal and tribal land point out states including Wyoming have had at least one of those rules in place for years, a requirement that companies disclose to state regulators the chemical ingredients in the fluid products used in hydraulic fracturing.

Fracking involves pumping water mixed with sand and other fluids underground to crack open oil and gas deposits. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state agency in charge of regulating oil and gas development in Wyoming, has had a fracking chemical-disclosure rule in effect since 2010.

Wyoming was the first state to adopt such a rule.

Fracking chemical disclosure is among the federal rules announced Friday by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. That raised speculation the federal rules might duplicate what Wyoming — a top state for oil and gas production from federal lands — already has in place.

Non-necessary, duplicative rules add time and cost to oil and gas projects, said John Robitaille with the Petroleum Association of Wyoming. "Any time we add additional regulation, especially in the pricing environment we're in now, it's going to impact whether projects get implemented or not," Robitaille said Friday.

How the Interior Department implements its rules will be key. The federal government could allow states with rules at least as strong as the federal ones to continue with theirs instead, Jewell said. "There are states such as Wyoming and Colorado that may be more stringent than ours," she said in a news media conference call announcing the federal rules.

Under the rules, which take effect 90 days from now, companies would disclose fracking chemicals through a website database, FracFocus, run by the Ground Water Protection Council and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.

Several states, including Colorado, Montana and Utah, already require companies to disclose fracking chemicals through FracFocus. In Wyoming, disclosure occurs not through FracFocus but paperwork filed directly with the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Gov. Matt Mead said he is asking Attorney General Peter Michael to evaluate whether Wyoming should challenge the federal rule in court. "BLM is not only late to the game, it proposes a rule that establishes a separate process for drilling and complicates compliance. I do not believe BLM has the authority to promulgate this rule," Mead said in a statement.

The Independent Petroleum Association of American and Western Energy Alliance filed a lawsuit in Wyoming federal court within hours of the announcement, saying in part that the rules duplicate state requirements.

"We have to look at the rule more in depth, but the state variance process is particularly of concern," said Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs for the Denver-based Western Energy Alliance.

Several Republican federal lawmakers likewise took aim at the federal rules as duplicative, including Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, who called them a "solution in search of a problem."

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