Fracking blowout report released by ERCB

Fracking blowout report released by ERCB by Johnnie Bachusky, December 18, 2012, Mountainview Gazette
The Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) has handed down its report into the fracking blowout near Innisfail 11 months ago but due to a lack of enforcement regulations at the time no punitive measures are being taken. “At the time there were no ERCB regulations that addressed this,” said Darin Barter, ERCB communications officer. “If you don’t have specific rules you can’t rule on it.” The ERCB’s Dec. 12 investigative report on the incident came six days after its press release that it wanted public feedback on proposed requirements for hydraulic fracturing activities. The input will be considered for the agency’s draft directive that addresses sub-surface issues related to the increasing use of fracing, said the ERCB. Barter said he expects the final report to address enforcement guidelines. “Once the draft is finalized we will be in position to conduct enforcement action against companies,” he said. … [Rachel Notley, the provincial NDP environment critic] pointed out the recently released draft directive from the ERCB will not prevent serious fracking incidents in the future, and that proposed standards are “flexible and almost impossible to enforce. “The new fracking directives are just another example of how this government panders to industry by letting them participate in the directive’s development behind closed doors. Asking Albertans for their input now, is more akin to a PR stunt than real consultation,” said Notley. And in Mountain View County, where the number of fracking operations continues to increase, the ERCB’s findings were met with scepticism from Coun. Paddy Munro, who has been vocal in recent years over the potential adverse environmental impacts of the controversial process. “It doesn’t surprise me. It is exactly what I expected,” said the councillor for Division 6. “The companies have to be held accountable.”

The report said the fracturing in formation created by Midway’s hydraulic operation resulted in communication pathways between the two wells. It was noted the pressure increase in the Wild Stream well resulted in a release of fracturing and formation fluids to surface. … Meanwhile, as the ERCB forges ahead with its process to update its regulations for hydraulic fracturing activities, the Sundre Petroleum Operators Group (SPOG) continues its work on its best practices document for fracing operations in the district. Tracey McCrimmon, SPOG’s executive director, said last week she had just received the Dec. 12 ERCB report and did not have the opportunity to review it to offer an informed comment. However, she did add the Jan. 13, 2011 incident occurred outside of SPOG’s boundaries and the involved companies were not SPOG members. “This incident was identified when we started our proactive engagement process for multi-stage hydraulic fracing which allowed us the opportunity to address the wellbore communication issue in our process,” said McCrimmon. “SPOG’s performance measures requests company risk assessment plans have mitigation measures for this issue.” She said the ERCB has been at the table and actively participated with SPOG’s process. “We have worked very hard within SPOG’s boundary to raise awareness for multi-stage fracing with all of our stakeholders but there is always more work to do,” said McCrimmon. [Emphasis added]

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