AOGCC to hold hearing on fracking notice proposal

AOGCC to hold hearing on fracking notice proposal

By BEN BOETTGER

Morris news Service - Alaska

Alaska’s oil and gas regulatory oversight body, the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, is required to make public the locations, depth and operating data of oil and gas wells, but not information about how the wells may be treated with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. This may change if the commission rules in favor of a proposal requiring public hearings for fracking permits.

On Oct. 19, the conservation nonprofit Cook Inletkeeper requested the AOGCC make fracking permits subject to the public notification and public hearing requirements with which the AOGCC evaluates proposals for other oil and gas activities. AOGCC commissioners will discuss the proposal in a public meeting in Anchorage on Dec. 15 and will take public comments until the date of the hearing.

BlueCrest Energy plans to use fracking methods to extract oil from the Cosmopolitan formation, located offshore beneath Cook Inlet near Anchor Point. The company plans to begin drilling a well into the formation in late November and to produce oil from it this spring, said BlueCrest Health, Safety and Environment Manager Larry Burgess.

BlueCrest applied to AOGCC on Aug. 11, 2016, for a permit to frack its Cosmopolitan wells. Under present notification requirements, notice was sent to residents living within a half mile of its wellpad at Mile 151 of the Sterling Highway, who were able to view the application on request.

Bob Shavelson, Inletkeeper and executive director of the conservation organization, said because Cook InletKeeper had taken an interest in the BlueCrest project, AOGCC officials decided to give them a copy of BlueCrest’s fracking permit application although they weren’t required to do so. Cook InletKeeper has posted a copy of the permit on its website.

BlueCrest’s planned fracking well will extend horizontally 3 miles from the shore of Cook Inlet and 7,000 feet deep — 6,881 feet deeper than the deepest water well in the area, according to a BlueCrest presentation. Although BlueCrest’s operation has attracted public protest, Shavelson said Cook InletKeeper’s concern was more about future fracking wells.

“We looked at (BlueCrest’s) permit and didn’t get super excited about it just because it was so deep and far offshore,” Shavelson said. “But a lot of people got concerned because fracking was coming into the populated areas of Cook Inlet. I think we’re going to see more of that. So what we’re trying to do is address that public concern and give people an opportunity to weigh in.”

BlueCrest President Benjamin Johnson said his company doesn’t plan to make any formal presentations at the hearing, though some BlueCrest employees may be present.

Johnson said a notice and hearing process for fracking permits would have no additional benefit over the regulations currently in place and would create a new public cost, adding that the oversight of the AOGCC is sufficient to ensure the suitability of a prospective fracking project.

According to its hearing notice, AOGCC estimates public notices and hearings for fracking projects would cost $14,000 per year.

Ben Boettger is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. He can be reached at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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