After many years of claiming that the Texas regulatory regime for drilling and fracking has been entirely problem-free, and that any safety and environment issues were somehow magically limited to Pennsylvania and North Dakota, the anachronistically named Railroad Commission has recognized extant problems and issued new rules.
Careful construction of oil and gas wells is vital in preventing oil, gas or fracking-related fluids from leaking into aquifers. A study last year for the Groundwater Protection Council found that from 1993 to 2008, faulty drilling or well completion was responsible for 10 documented instances of groundwater contamination in Texas.
The proposed rules span topics related to what the industry calls “well integrity.” They cover the quality of the protective cement placed between layers of pipe in an oil or gas well and a pressure test for the pipes themselves (which are often called casing) in wells being prepared for fracking. They could create new requirements for the components of blowout preventer systems on certain wells, including those onshore in populated areas.
Among the most-discussed provisions is a proposal that bans fracking operations at noncemented wells when the shale being fractured comes within 1,000 vertical feet of a usable aquifer.
Despite national posturing and Republican dominance and Tea Party breast-beating, Texas is far from the least regulated or worst regulated place imaginable, by the way.