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State Agency Considers Public Notice On Fracking Applications

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BlueCrest Energy
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The state agency that oversees oil and gas drilling is proposing a ten-day comment period for applications to use hydraulic fracturing on an oil or gas well.

The proposal falls in between what environmental groups and the industry say is sufficient opportunity for public input before a well can be fracked in Alaska.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission also proposed posting fracking applications on its website, although companies would have the opportunity to redact information deemed confidential.

The commission made the announcement today in response to a proposal by Cook Inletkeeper.

The group says current fracking regulations don't give the public enough opportunity to weigh in. Cook Inletkeeper had asked for a 30-day comment period and a public hearing when a company applies to frack a well.

Cook Inletkeeper Executive Director Bob Shavelson says the proposal for a 10-day comment period doesn't go far enough.

“It's a good step forward, but it's still a fairly tepid effort to provide real notice and comment opportunities for Alaskans to look at fracking applications that could potentially affect groundwater and salmon streams,” said Shavelson.

An industry group in the state is reacting cautiously to the proposal.

Joshua Kindred, environmental council for the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, says the regulation could be worse for industry, but he still has concerns.

“This is unnecessary and it doesn't actually provide remedies, all it does is provide delays and increased costs,” said Kindred. “To be completely candid, this isn't as onerous as what was originally proposed.”

Whether hydraulic fracturing poses a significant threat to groundwater is hotly debated; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently concluded impacts are possible "under some circumstances." The industry disputes that conclusion.

A hearing on the commission's proposal is scheduled for March 23.

Public comments on the proposed regulation change can be submitted by email to jody.colombie@alaska.gov or by mail to Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission at 333 West 7th Avenue, Anchorage, Alaska 99501.

All comments must be received no later than 4:30 p.m. on March 23, 2017.