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Frack panel hears pro-energy message from tribes

Oct 4, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

A panel with experience in hydraulic fracturing provided guests at Central Wyoming College's "Hot Topics" forum a layout of the issues surrounding the practice.

Panel participants included Wind River Environmental Quality director Ryan Ortiz, energy industry engineer Craig Smith of Casper, who has worked in the energy field for 25 years, Jimmy Goolsby of the Casper geology consulting firm Goolsby Finley and Associates, and attorney and former Riverton mayor John Vincent.

The panel also discussed the authority for other activity going on in Wyoming. With the main interest in the extraction of minerals, Ortiz said the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes are for "pro-exploration and development in minerals" and make sure their procedures are done responsibly and correctly.

Guests asked about the operational monitoring that happens at the site and who is in charge of what to make sure no mistakes are made.

Attendees also asked about the chemicals that are added to the water and sand mixture during the fracking process. The chemicals that are added to the recipe, Ortiz said, are not fully disclosed to the tribes, but some information is available.

Regulations in place require companies to provide that information but, the panel said, companies often seek court orders to allow them to withhold that information for fear of disclosing it to competitors.

The economic advantages of the natural gas and oil industry were discussed later. The billion-dollar contribution to the state, Smith said, allows families to have extra money in their pockets and contribute to the local economy. Ortiz said that while the tribes own most of the minerals in the state, they are also a huge contributor of taxes to the state and provide families with their mineral payments.

As the industry continues to grow, Smith said the country eventually can become energy independent. Students and landowners asked the panel more about the fracking process, about the operators and contractors with the companies, and about additional studies at the sites.

Hot Topics organizer Mike Myers said he definitely felt the discussion had a pro-industry perspective and would like to target more landowner and environmental concerns in a second part of the issue before this semester ends.

He said he invited representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission and concerned citizens of Pavillion, but none could make it.

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