Independent Panel Finds Louisiana Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Program “well-managed, professionaland meeting its program objectives”

Last week, the not-for-profit organization known as the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations (STRONGER) issued its latest report examining the strength of state-based hydraulic fracturing regulatory programs – this time, singling out the state of Louisiana and its regulators for executing a “well-managed” program across the state.

STRONGER is a non-profit, multi-stakeholder organization tasked by the Interstate Oil Compact Commission (IOCC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review the effectiveness of various states’ oil and gas regulatory structures.

Among the things highlighted in the latest STRONGER report:

“Hydraulic fracturing has been conducted in Louisiana since the 1960s. The State of Louisiana has not identified any instances where hydraulic fracturing has harmed groundwater.” (page 8)

“[The Haynesville Shale] contains an estimated 251 TCF of recoverable natural gas.” (page 8)

“The review team has concluded that the Louisiana program is, over all, well-managed, professional and meeting its program objectives.” (page 4)

STRONGER also commends Louisiana for its dedication to clean water, public outreach and safety:

  • “In addition to advising operators to use sources of water other than the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer, in a separate letter to operators, the Commissioner [of Conservation, Department of Natural Resources] instituted [an additional] requirement…As a result of those actions, water demand for the year from October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010 was met primarily (78 percent) by surface water. Through these actions, the Office of Conservation is confident that long-term adverse impacts to the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer have been prevented.” (page 16)
  • “The use of alternate sources of water and recycling of E&P waste fluids for hydraulic fracturing in the Haynesville Shale are encouraged.” (page 17)
  • “The Office of Conservation has a good public outreach program in place that includes participation in industry meetings, workshops for the public, and the DNR web site.  The Office of Conservation has been involved in a number of local meetings and forums on well construction, water use, and hydraulic fracturing operations.” (page 6)
  • “The Office of Conservation indicated that staffing levels are sufficient to address hydraulic fracturing and other oil and gas activities. Field staff levels were increased prior to the development of the Haynesville Shale. There is no expectation of staff cuts due to budget issues.” (page 14)
  • “Standards are in place for the placement and pressure testing of casing and cement.  The minimum surface casing depth is based on the total depth of the well. District managers can require more than minimum casing based on the regional or local geology and other factors. A minimum of 1,800 feet of surface casing is required for Haynesville Shale wells.” (page 10)
  • “Operators are required to provide at least 12-hours notice to the district office prior to hydraulic fracturing operations.  This provides the opportunity for the state to witness the activity.” (page 10)

This is just the latest in a growing string of similar STRONGER reports – each commending various states for their well-managed regulation of hydraulic fracturing, including in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Of course, the interesting little wrinkle here is that the STRONGER panel includes representatives not only from those involved in industry, but from federal agencies such as the Dept. of Energy and EPA and environmental groups such as the Oil and Gas Accountability Project – not typically regarded as a friend of responsible shale development.

In fact, not only did OGAP counsel Bruce Baizel participate in the review process, he actually served as one of the three official “team members” who drew up the recommendations. Imagine that?!

From what we understand, the folks over at STRONGER will be releasing additional reports in the coming months. And when they do, you can find them here on EID.

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