Kansas City, Mo. The Kansas Corporation Commission, the agency that regulates the oil and gas industry in the state, says it doesn’t have the necessary staff to inspect the growing number of oil and gas drilling sites involving horizontal fracturing, or fracking.
“Current staffing resources cannot adequately and timely perform necessary field inspections with this increase level of activity,” the KCC said in its budget request for 2013.
The KCC said that since 2009 when the first horizontal wells were drilled in Kansas, the state has seen a 300 percent increase in permits for such wells. The number of permits the state has issued for horizontally fracked wells has gone from eight in 2010, to 250 estimated for fiscal year 2012 and 500 estimated for fiscal year 2013, according to the KCC.
While most of the recent fracking activity has been in south-central and western Kansas, the KCC also said the drilling has been moving northward and includes counties “as far north as McPherson County.”
The agency also raised concerns about being able to adequately inspect waste water generated by fracking, which has developed considerably and grown in popularity around the country in the last decade. The method involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into the well to open cracks and help oil and gas flow to the surface.
Horizontal fracking has also drawn the attention of environmental groups that question whether the method contaminates groundwater. Oil and gas companies that use fracking have said the method is safe.
The Environmental Protection Agency has begun a study of fracking and said recently it found a possible link between hydraulic fracturing and groundwater pollution in a central Wyoming town. The EPA said the findings from that study are specific to that town, Pavillion, Wyo. Calgary, Alberta-based Encana, which owns that Wyoming gas field, also said the compounds could have had other origins not related to gas development.
“Horizontal wells will require more frequent drilling rig on site inspections ... to ensure correlative rights and fresh and usable waters of the state are protected,” the KCC budget request said. “In addition, horizontal wells require larger drilling pits that need to be inspected and more waste drilling fluid. Also when wells are brought into production, each will produce more saltwater for disposal, meaning more new disposal wells to be permitted and tested.”
Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed dedicating more than $500,000 in the state budget to help the KCC deal with the increase of fracking.
“Due to the increased level of activity, current staff at the KCC are unable to perform the necessary field inspections,” the governor’s 2013 budget proposal says.
In the proposed budget, Brownback recommended adding $519,977 from the KCC’s conservation fee fund for inspecting and regulating “at an ever-increasing number of job sites where horizontal drilling is being performed.”