Sidley Shale and Hydraulic Fracturing Report

Vol. 6, No. 24

Topics discussed in this week’s Report include:

  • BLM expected to review backlog of flaring requests from Bakken shale wells.
  • Virginia Democrats introduced Senate bill that would require FERC to expand public participation process.
  • Department of Energy seeks comment on water policy database.

BLM expected to review backlog of flaring requests from Bakken shale wells. According to published reports, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is expected to review nearly 2,500 requests to flare natural gas that the agency has received from North Dakota well operators over the past five years to determine whether the flaring was avoidable. BLM requires well operators to receive authorization to flare natural gas from wells located on federal and tribal lands. Before flaring, operators submit notices to the agency for review. BLM had stopped processing the notices from the Bakken shale region while it finalized an environmental assessment. With the assessment now complete, the agency is anticipated to begin processing the outstanding notices. BLM engineers are expected to consider capacity, pipeline availability and economic factors when reviewing the requests. If the agency were to find a noticed flaring was improper by law, the companies could be required to pay royalties. Operators have substantially reduced flaring in the region over the past five years. Currently, flaring in North Dakota falls around 10 percent.

Virginia Democrats introduce Senate bill that would require FERC to expand public participation process. Virginia Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner introduced  S.1314 last week, which would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to solicit more input from local communities on proposed pipeline projects. The bill would require FERC to hold a public comment meeting in every jurisdiction directly affected by a proposed pipeline, as well as hold meetings during different stages of the permitting process. Under current law, FERC provides multiple opportunities for comment on proposed projects, but is not mandated to conduct live meetings. The bill also seeks to revise the environmental impact statement process for pipeline projects. Instead of evaluating projects separately, if two pipelines are proposed within the same year and within the same geographic area, the bill would require a single environmental impact statement. It is reported that Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., plans to file similar legislation in the House later this month.

Department of Energy seeks comments on water policy database. The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis is soliciting comment on a draft database that collects and tracks state water policies relevant to the energy sector. The database is available at and includes over 1,700 policies. In particular, the database includes pollutant discharge elimination rules that affect electricity generators and oil and gas production, as well as policies covering water quality standards, underground injection control surface water rights and groundwater protection. The database is searchable by topic, jurisdiction, date and energy subsector or water body affected. The DOE is requesting comments on the functionality and accuracy of the database by Aug. 4.