If you look at HB 2277 authored by Myra Crownover, you might think she was trying to gut environmental regulations. It looks like the bill would let natural gas operators put flowback water into unlined pits – even if it has the same chemicals as the original frack water that went down the hole.
Well, I just got off the phone with a representative from her office who argued the intent is actually quite the opposite. The bill is actually designed to promote environmental goals by incentivizing more water recycling by operators. My contact told me that pit liner requirements can be disincentives when it comes to water recycling. Removing that requirement would enable operators to use existing pits to store flowback water that could then be re-used for another well on the same (or nearby) pad site. This would eliminate some truck traffic and reduce water consumption.
My contact admitted the current wording is vague and less than ideal. They are now trying to wordsmith it so that this environmental intent shines through more clearly. This will entail making it very clear that the flowback water allowed in unlined pits must meet the same standards as the groundwater that is currently allowed in those pits. In other words, operators would have to remove fracking chemicals prior to dumping flowback into unlined pits.
My thanks to Sharon Wilson and Cathy McMullen for putting this on our radar – we need to keep watching this to make sure they do indeed fix the wording. We all know the devil is in the details when it comes to drilling legislation.