By Brittany L. Buckley

The recent development of the Haynesville Shale in North Louisiana and other shale formations around the country has generated huge public interest in the hydraulic fracturing process, which is known as “fracking” in the oil and gas industry. Fracking refers to the procedure of injecting fluid into tight shale or sandstone formations to create fractures in the rock, through which oil and gas flow into the wellbore. When combined with horizontal drilling, fracking allows producers to capture oil and gas reserves that were once thought to be out-of-reach.

Last week, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) filed a Notice of Intent to amend LAC 43:XIX Subpart I (Statewide Order No. 29-B). The proposal seeks to amend Statewide Order 29-B to include new reporting regulations for fracking operations in Louisiana. If the proposed regulation is promulgated, it would require any operator engaged in fracking to regularly report:

  1. The types and volumes of base fluid used during fracking;
  2. A detailed list of all additives used in the fluid and the name of the supplier for each type of additive; and
  3. A list and concentration of any chemicals contained in the fracking fluid that are regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and reported on Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).

If, however, the identity of any reportable chemical or additive is a “trade secret,” the operator may refuse to report proprietary details but must still report pertinent chemical characteristics of the product. The proposed regulation would only apply to new wells that are drilled after the date that a final regulation is promulgated.

The Notice of Intent is merely the first step in promulgating the new reporting requirements for fracking in Louisiana. This proposed regulation was initiated based on recommendations from the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations (STRONGER), (1) which champions itself as a “successful alternative to federal oversight of state oil and gas exploration and production waste regulatory programs.” (2)  With this proposal, Louisiana joins a growing list of states including Arkansas (3), Michigan (4), Montana (5) , Texas (6) , and Wyoming (7) that are discussing or have passed state regulations requiring disclosure or reporting of the contents of hydraulic fracturing fluids. A public hearing regarding the proposed Louisiana regulations will occur on August 30, 2011 in Baton Rouge.

To view the full Notice of Intent, visit the LDNR’s website.

 (1)  See Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, Notice of Intent: Hydraulic Fracturing Stimulation Operations (LAC 43:XIX.118) (“a review of the Office of Conservation policies and regulations associated with the hydraulic fracturing process was conducted by the non-profit, multi-stakeholder organization, STRONGER, Inc. to assess the effectiveness and adequacy of current regulations. Their report finalized March 2011, recommended some of the changes included in the proposed amendment.”).

(2)  STRONGER, Inc. website, “The History and Accomplishments of the State Review Process,” available at: http://www.strongerinc.org/documents/STRONGER%20State%20Review%20Process%203-4-2011.pdf.

(3)  See Arkansas Oil & Gas Commission, Rule B-19, available at: http://www.aogc.state.ar.us/PDF/B-19%20Final%201-15-11.pdf.

(4)  See Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Supervisor of Wells Instruction 1-2011(Reporting Instructions), available at: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/SI_1-2011_353936_7.pdf.

(5)  See Department of Natural Resources and Conservation of the State of Montana website, available at: http://bogc.dnrc.mt.gov/PDF/36-22-157pro-arm.pdf.

(6)  See Texas House Bill 3328 (effective 9/1/11), http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=82R&Bill=HB3328; http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/history.aspx?LegSess=82R&Bill=HB3328.

(7)  See Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission Rules (Chap. 4, Sect. 10), http://soswy.state.wy.us/Rules/RULES/7929.pdf.