That’s what North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources director Lynn Helms predicts.
The Bismarck Tribune reports,
…Even with oil near $100 a barrel and 200 rigs drilling in North Dakota last week, the specter of some sort of free-fall caused by a federal push to regulate hydraulic fracture treatment weighs heavily on Lynn Helms. He’s the director of the Department of Mineral Resources, the one man most in charge of this seemingly unstoppable surge centered on the Bakken.
Every single well in the Bakken and associated formations is fracture-treated. By now, that amounts to 3,000 wells, a fraction of future oilfield development. Fracking, with high-pressure injections of water, sand and chemicals, has so far proved the only successful way to make oil flow from the dense source rock.
Helms believes the Environmental Protection Agency is on track to stop fracking as soon as January, when state regulators must write new rules for fracture treatment based on an EPA guidance document that is under review by the Office of Management and Budget.
The document will tell states how to comply with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and write permits under the act’s underground injection control Class II well program when diesel fuels are used in fracking fluids, an authority the EPA said it has in a statement to the Tribune.
Here’s how Helms said he sees that evolving.
In January, the EPA will release the guidance document to states. Then, his department will write a new section of state rules to comply with the document. Those are referred to the State Industrial Commission for adoption, but first are opened for public hearing.
By January 2013, the state would be able to complete its rulemaking, which the EPA must first publish in the Federal Register, possibly in the first quarter of that year, before the state could begin permitting hydraulic fracturing.
In the meantime, Helms said, he believes there will be a moratorium on fracking because of the history of many-months moratoriums in Alabama, when the EPA, because of an environmental lawsuit, revoked Alabama’s underground injection program until the state wrote new rules specific to fracking under Class II well standards.
“I believe it will be stopped cold for 12 to 24 months. The best case is 15 months and that’s only if we red-lighted everything else and got nothing else done,” Helms said…
EPA denies that it plans to issue a moratorium. EPA told Politico this afternoon,
EPA does not have a plan or the authority to stop oil and gas production. The draft guidance that EPA is currently developing provides a flexible approach for permit writers to develop permits that protect drinking water sources. It is not intended to be a regulatory document, would not itself require any state to change its regulations and is based on existing best practices in use by industry today.
Read more: http://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/helms-says-epa-could-halt-fracking-in-oil-patch/article_fe9a3284-18b9-11e1-ba39-001cc4c03286.html#ixzz1f8M5y28c