Rep. Webb Files Bills To Regulate Natural Gas Industry (updated)

by Talk Business ([email protected]) 69 views 

Rep. Kathy Webb certainly has influence over where the "green" goes in Arkansas as co-chair of the powerful Joint Budget Committee.

She also has a passion for other "green" causes.

On Friday, Webb (D-Little Rock) filed 5 bills aimed at monitoring natural gas companies, while protecting air and water quality in their drilling fields.

HB 1392, 1393, 1394, 1395, 1396 all seek a new layer of accountability and disclosure from an industry that has seen a rapid ramp-up in the Fayetteville Shale play in north central Arkansas.

With that accelerated development have come a host of concerns about air and water quality, with the state saying it lacks enough resources to monitor gas drilling operations as much as it would like.

Webb tells Talk Business that the bills are part of her long-standing efforts with the Citizens First Congress, a grassroots group focused on environmental, education, fair tax and social justice causes.

According to the group’s web site, it counts 48 organizations as members of its coalition. Some of those members include the Sierra Club, Audubon Arkansas, Arkansas Conservation Coalition, and the Arkansas Renewable Energy Association.

Webb says that in addition to the 5 bills filed last Friday, she has 2 more shell bills to be filed this week. Full details of those additions should be added by this coming Friday.

Here is a short synopsis of the 5 bills filed last week:

HB 1392 – To create a program for an annual inspection of gas wells to account for the use of and effects of chemicals in the drilling process. The bill stipulates that inspections could happen more often during drilling or fracking processes.

HB 1393 – To protect Arkansans from long-term toxins by requiring bonds for gas drilling operations. The measure calls for drilling companies to post bonds (an amount not spelled out in the bill) to cover the cost of gas well closure and site remediation.

HB 1394 – To protect Arkansas’ water in areas affected by gas drilling operations. The bill has fairly open-ended language that calls for gas companies to follow best management practices and doing more to protect waterways and landowners’ private water supplies.

HB 1395
– To protect air quality in the vicinity of natural gas drilling fields. Additional details are not provided in the bill at this time.

HB 1396
– To require full disclosure regarding natural gas drilling chemicals. The bill calls on the drilling companies to disclose the volumes and source of water used, as well as chemicals, quantities and disposal methods.

At this point, none of the bills outline any penalties associated with violations or concerns. All of the bills have been assigned to the House Agriculture, Forestry, & Economic Development Committee.

UPDATE: As previously reported, Webb and co-sponsor Rep. Bobby Pierce (D-Sheridan) filed two additional bills aimed at making changes to drilling practices in the natural gas industry.

HB 1399 would limit the noise in gas fields to "no more than fifty decibels at two hundred feet." HB 1400 creates a "Landowners’ Bill of Rights." It requires for additional disclosure of company activities on private property, including information about mineral rights, compensation for surface effects, and "adequate" notice of gas company activity on property.