The director of the state Oil and Gas Commission says a new rule requiring public disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process is working. But he added convincing the public that every part of natural gas exploration is safe is still an on going challenge.
Natural gas drilling is big business in north central Arkansas in the Fayetteville shale play but it also comes with equally big environmental concerns.
To address it, the Arkansas Oil and Gas commission started a rule this year listing all the chemicals in fracking process. It's called B-19.
Lawrence Bengal told a legislative panel at the capitol Thursday that 354 chemicals are listed on-line. More than 60 other chemicals are still classified as "trade secrets".
"We adopted B19, the disclosure rule, primary purpose to allow public to know what's in the frac fluid, there is no reason for them to not know that," Bengal says. "I think the industry knows this has to be done because there's a public concern to do this."
Debbie Doss with the Arkansas Conservation Coalition attended the joint meeting of the Agriculture Committee and says while water testing continues, the new rule implemented this year is a sign of progress.
"We don't necessarily need to know the exact chemicals to tell there's been leaking into water," Doss says. "We're happy that Arkansas is stepping up and making some rules to be more protective of the environment and the people living in the Fayetteville Shale."
"In so far as putting the issue totally to bed in the public mind, there is a concern that the public still has with the whole process," Bengal told reporters after the meeting.
But Bengal hopes having a place to turn to for more information on fracking fluids will only help.
The legislative meeting was a chance for lawmakers to simply review policy changes made by the Oil and Gas Commission.
Any new legislation regarding the Fayetteville Shale likely would not be introduced until the next regular legislative session in 2013.
Bengal says the commission is moving forward with its proposed permanent moratorium on new injection wells covering a large part of the shale. The full commission is expected to vote on the proposal at its next meeting on July 26th in El Dorado.