Standards and Regulations

Stringent standards and operating procedures for natural gas drilling are based upon decades of experience; they protect citizens and the environment because they are enforced by the drilling companies and the government through strict regulations and oversight. 

Standards

The American Petroleum Institute (API) is a trade association that represents 400 member companies across the oil and natural gas industry.  For more than 85 years, API, in conjunction with its member companies, has developed and refined engineering standards and practices for all aspects of oil and natural gas production.  Many of these standards have been adopted as references for industry performance, and incorporated into state and federal regulations.  These standards, considered industry practice, cover all aspects of Fayetteville Shale production, including site preparation, drilling, well construction, well integrity, water use management and surface environmental considerations.

Companies producing natural gas from the shale formations adhere to these strict standards when planning for and operating their wells.  Many of these companies are also the ones who developed the standards, and have been using them in production for years, if not decades.  The companies that continue to follow these strict standards and regulations will protect the safety and health of all citizens and the environment.  API and its member companies also continually monitor and update these standards to ensure operational safety and efficiency.

Regulations

In addition to stringent standards governing natural gas operations, there are federal, state and local government regulations that address oil and gas drilling and environmental protection for Arkansas.

These rules cover all aspects of the process, including well permitting, well materials and construction, air emissions, wildlife protection, safe disposition of used hydraulic fracturing fluids, water testing, chemical recordkeeping and reporting.

The Arkansas Oil & Gas Commission (AOGC) oversees regulations governing oil and natural gas drilling in order to protect the environment and citizens of Arkansas. The AOGC’s mission is to serve the public regarding oil and gas matters, prevent waste, encourage conservation, and protect the correlative rights of ownership associated with the production of oil, natural gas and brine, while protecting the environment during the production process, through the regulation and enforcement of the laws of the State of Arkansas. 

AOGC now requires natural gas companies to register chemicals used in the fracking process. State officials also have strengthened cement casing regulations that require drillers to seal wells. (SOURCE: AOGC)

AOGC holds numerous regulatory functions, including (SOURCE:  AOGC):

  • Issuance of permits to drill oil, natural gas and brine production wells and other types of exploratory holes;
  • Issue authority to operate and produce wells through approval of:
  • Well completions and recompletions
  • Initial production test to establish production allowable
  • Conducting compliance inspections during drilling process and operational life of well.
  • Issuance authority to plug and abandon wells to insure protection of fresh water zones and production intervals. 
  • Issuance of permits to conduct seismic operations for exploration of oil and natural gas.
  • Issuance of permits to drill and operate Class II  UIC enhanced oil recovery injection wells and saltwater disposal wells. 
  • Issuance of permits to drill and operate Class V UIC brine injection wells for the disposal of spent brine fluids following removal of bromine and other minerals.
  • Conduct monthly administrative hearings to enforce provisions of the oil and gas statutes and regulations.

Safe Drinking Water Act
Questions have arisen regarding the regulation of hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The SDWA was enacted in 1974 to ensure that water supply systems serving the public met appropriate health standards, and was specifically designed to establish a federal-state partnership to "protect drinking water from contamination by the underground injection of waste," through the “Underground Injection Control (UIC)” program.  UIC systems place, or “inject” waste fluids underground for storage or disposal.  And since hydraulic fracturing fluids are not “waste”, but rather used to aid in oil and natural gas production, they were never included under the act.  Therefore, the fracturing fluids were not “exempted” from the SDWA nor were they considered a “loophole” as some accounts convey.

To clarify the usage of hydraulic fracturing fluids, Congress included language in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 making it clear once and for all that underground injection fluids or propping agents were excluded from the SDWA.

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