Sen. Jason Rapert Requests Independent Review of Arkansas Hydraulic Fracturing Rules and Regulations

August 12, 2011 – Senator Jason Rapert (R), Chair of the Fayetteville Shale Caucus of Legislators, has called for an independent review of Arkansas Oil & Gas Commission Rules and Regulations by STRONGER. The name, STRONGER, is an acronym for State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations. STRONGER was formed in 1999 to reinvigorate and carry forward the state review process begun cooperatively in 1988 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC).

“After spending the past several months researching the Fayetteville Shale Play development in Arkansas, listening to constituents, hearing testimony from environmental, regulatory and industry experts and conferencing with leaders from other states developing natural gas, I believe it is time for a review of AOGC rules and regulations governing Hydraulic Fracturing in the natural gas industry in Arkansas. STRONGER has the history and integrity to bring together regulators, environmental leaders, industry leaders and the public in general. It is important that we cultivate public trust and I believe having a review of our regulations in Arkansas is appropriate at this time,” stated Rapert.

STRONGER is a non-profit, multi-stakeholder organization whose purpose is to assist states in documenting the environmental regulations associated with the exploration, development and production of crude oil and natural gas. Sen. Rapert said, “I have consulted with experts in this arena and believe that STRONGER will have the support of all stakeholders in Arkansas. It is fair and balanced.”

Sen. Rapert sent a letter to Larry Bengal, Director of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission this afternoon, asking to present his request to AOGC at their August 23rd meeting, and also informed ADEQ and Governor Mike Beebe’s office of his request.

Rapert states, “As the chair of the Fayetteville Shale Caucus of Legislators and the current senator for District 18 wherein 80% of the Fayetteville Shale Play lies, I want Arkansas to have proper standards in place to protect our environment and groundwater resources, while developing our natural gas resources in the most responsible and efficient manner. While I am confident that AOGC and ADEQ have been doing a good job in managing the development of the Fayetteville Shale Play and that most industry producers are being responsible corporate citizens, I want the communities within my district and the state of Arkansas to be confident that we have proper environmental protections in force and that Arkansas rules and regulations are fair to all concerned. The development of natural gas has been the savior of many communities in my district and is critical to the future of Arkansas.”

Senator Rapert met briefly and has consulted with Mike Paque, who is Executive Director of The Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC), and serves on the board of STRONGER. Mr. Paque said, “The Ground Water Protection Council has long been a supporter of the STRONGER process and more recently the reviews of state oil and gas regulatory programs as they relate to hydraulic fracturing. The recent STRONGER multi-stakeholder hydraulic fracturing reviews of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Colorado have shown that state programs are well run and have helped the concerned public understand the programs better. At the same time, where there were regulatory practices or procedures that could be updated or modified to improve environmental protection or public understanding, those recommendations were made to the state agencies.”

“I have taken time to really investigate the STRONGER process and I have found that leaders in the regulatory agencies are supportive of the review process,“ Rapert stated.

One of those leaders is Lori Wrotenbery, Director of Oil and Gas Conservation Division for the state of Oklahoma. Recently when testifying before the Congressional Natural Gas Caucus on June 01, 2011, Wrotenbery said, “The STRONGER stakeholder teams take the time to review the material provided by the state, listen to a presentation by the state on its rules and procedures, and discuss with the state how the state addresses the key program elements laid out in the STRONGER guidelines. The review team then prepares a report that discusses the state program and makes findings and recommendations based on the STRONGER guidelines. The review teams strive for balance in their reports. They attempt to highlight the program strengths and accomplishments, as well as identifying areas for improvement.”

“I want Arkansas to develop a CNG economy. We should be using Arkansas energy to power Arkansas. Having public trust is crucial for our state to prosper from natural gas while simultaneously protecting our environment in the Natural State. Undergoing a review from STRONGER, will make us stronger,” said Rapert.