The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday issued new regulatory standards for oil and gas wells that use hydraulic fracturing.
The standards include a requirement that new wells recover 95 percent of the oil and gas that comes to the surface during one part of the fracturing process and requirements that well operators reduce the output of certain chemicals, including benzene and methane. The agency said that the regulatory changes are cost-efficient and that owners will be able to sell natural gas that doesn't enter the air.
The requirements come as the result of a court order. Two environmental groups sued the EPA to force the agency to regulate oil and gas fracturing under the Clean Air Act, and the consent decree that resolved the lawsuit requires the agency to produce final standards by February 12, 2012.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the injection of chemically infused water at high pressures into rock beds deep beneath the earth’s surface, has long been a source of controversy. The new standards are similar to those already in place in Wyoming and Colorado. In Texas, a bill passed by the Legislature earlier this year, HB 3328, requires well operators to disclose the composition of fluids used in hydraulic fracturing treatments.
The new requirements come in the midst of an extended political struggle between Texas’ state government and the EPA. A recent rule issued by the agency that caps pollution from oil, gas and coal-fired power plants was decried by Gov. Rick Perry as “heavy-handed and misguided.”
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