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Legislative committee interrogates baseline testing rule

Bob Jenkins

Legislators had a lot of questions about a proposed water-testing rule for oil and gas wells during a meeting of the Minerals Committee last week.

Governor Matt Mead proposed the rule, which would require water testing before and after drilling. Industry estimates it would cost $9,000 to $18,000 per well. The governor’s natural resources policy advisor, Jerimiah Rieman, told legislators it’s worth the cost.

“From my perspective, it’s pretty cheap insurance for the companies,” Rieman said. “It’s pretty cheap for the state to have a rider on that policy.”

But some legislators expressed concern about the rules’ impacts on landowners. Data collected through the program would be public. Rieman assured the Minerals Committee that landowners can refuse testing or make alternate arrangements with companies if they don’t want that data disclosed.

Other legislators wondered about the scope of the proposed rules. Senator Chris Rothfuss asked why the rules limit testing to within a half-mile of the well pad, when many horizontally-drilled wells can extend miles underground. Rieman said the primary concern is with surface spills and leaks from the well casing.

“At this point in time, we do not believe, first of all, that this is a hydraulic fracturing rule -- and our concern is not those fractures at great length from those surface locations,” he said.

Legislators also questioned Rieman about other sampling parameters, like who can do it and during what timeframes.

A public meeting on the proposed rules will be held on October 15.

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