We’ve recently reported on new federal fracking rules in Wyoming . But there have been many rulings, advances, and other developments in the realm of fracking, and we thought it would be a good time to take a look back at its history.
The process of hydraulic fracking began in America in 1949 when a patent on the process was issued granting an exclusive license to the Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company. In the same year, Halliburton performed the very first two commercial hydraulic fracturing treatments in Archer County, Texas and Stephens County, Oklahoma.
1917 – The Texas Railroad Commission amended the state constitution to add laws reducing waste and overproduction from drilling and fracking activities. The Commission then introduced new rules regarding the spacing of wells and was considered the primary authority for creating and fine tuning regulations for the industry and nation throughout the 1900’s.
1974 – The EPA passes the Safe Drinking Water Act “to amend the Public Health Service Act to assure that the public is provided with safe drinking water, and for other purposes.” The act was meant to monitor underground injection activities, which includes Class II wells that are related to oil and gas production. But unless diesel fuel was used during the process, most hydraulic fracturing activities were exempt from SDWA requirements. However, the regulation of hydraulic fracturing is still done at the state level. These laws are still in effect, but there are growing calls to change it.
2000 – The EPA begins preparation on a report regarding hydraulic fracturing and its compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. This was in response to an Alabama court forcing the EPA to investigate water contamination thought to be caused by fracking. As the report was being put together, the agency struck a compromise with the three largest fracking companies to cease using diesel fuels in their operations. A few months after the EPA published its report, the 2005 Energy Policy Act was passed and exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
2010 – A lawsuit is filed in Pennsylvania alleging that fracturing done by the Southwestern Energy Company contaminated aquifers due to a defective cement casing in the fracking well.
2012 – Vermont becomes the first state in the union to impose a state wide fracking ban.
2015 – The state of Maryland imposes a ban on hydraulic fracking for two and a half years, while requiring the state to write new standards for regulation when the ban lifts. New York also bans fracking this year in response to a 1,448 page report on fracking. The state also announced plans for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 40% in 2030, another 80% reduction by 2050, and to acquire 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
2015 – The Obama administration moves to ban areas of Alaska from oil and natural gas drilling. The directive bans drilling on nearly 13 million acres of land in the 19 million acre area of Alaska known as ANWR, or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This includes 1.5 million acres of land that is believed to have rich oil and natural gas resources.
Sep 2015 – The U.S. District Court in Wyoming issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the Interior Department from carrying out the regulations issued by the Obama administration. However, the ruling only stops regulations targeted towards a fraction of the state’s domestic oil and gas production. While the regulations are applicable towards fracking on tribal and federal land, they do not apply to fracking done on state or private lands, which amounts to about 90%.
In June, four states including Colorado, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming, as well as two oil and gas organizations formally challenged the Bureau of Land Management and its new hydraulic fracking regulations that pertained to surface damage. They stated in court the regulations “overstep the state’s polices and harms the states’ sovereignty… and we are here today to protect our abilities as states to make our own rules and regulations.”
The judge overseeing the case waited for a formal report before ruling in favor of the states. Wisconsin Governor Matt Mead said of the decision: “Wyoming has sound and responsible rules for hydraulic fracturing – those rules have been in place for years. I will continue to work with the Attorney General as this case moves forward.”
With the all the controversy surrounding hydraulic fracturing, many other regulations and rulings are sure to come regarding the practice which will have lasting effects on the industry. To keep up with the latest regulations and developments in fracking, click here.