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Oklahoma officials take part in natural gas discussion with federal panel

Oil and natural gas industry officials from Oklahoma were part of discussions in Washington, D.C., this week with a Department of Energy subcommittee looking for safer ways to produce natural gas.
BY JAY F. MARKS Published: June 3, 2011

He noted an industry group recently has revamped the recommended practices for all phases of natural gas operations.

Whitsitt also said committee members did not realize the extent of state regulation of gas drilling or the industry's efforts to disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.

He said, a voluntary registry launched in April, already has information on about 1,200 wells from more than 40 companies. The website has attracted more than 35,000 visitors from 93 countries.

Whitsitt said committee members seemed engaged in the discussion of gas production and asked good questions.

He said industry officials need to continue to be responsive to the concerns expressed by the committee and others.

State role promoted

Ming said much of Thursday's session dealt with issues ancillary to hydraulic fracturing, such as safely handling fracking fluid and designing wells to minimize the risks of gas drilling.

“From an Oklahoma perspective, my message was that the states are far and away in the best position to develop regulations and enforce those regulations,” he said.

The American Petroleum Institute on Thursday applauded the Energy Department's dialogue on the development of America's vast natural gas resources, but the industry group urged officials not to stifle the development of one of the cleanest forms of energy with unneeded red tape.

“From well design to water use and site management, API standards and guidance documents have been used for decades with effective oversight by state environmental regulators,” said David Miller, the group's director of standards.

“We need to ensure we continue developing this nation's vast natural resources in the safest manner possible.”

API standards recognize that methods to access oil and natural gas resources vary by region so it is important that resource development be regulated appropriately by the states most familiar with regional geology, hydrology and biodiversity.

State regulators on Thursday repeated that state-based regulation has proved successful for safe industry operations.

Representatives of several states, including Texas and Arkansas, maintained that investigations in their states have not shown any cases of groundwater contamination resulting from hydraulic fracturing.