USGS, DOI nominees share thoughts on Bakken assessment, federal fracking laws

By The Bakken Magazine Staff | December 14, 2015

The nomination of Suzette Kimball for the director’s position at the U.S. Geological Survey could increase activity and interest in the Bakken. During a Senate hearing for the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., asked Kimball if she would revisit and revise the USGS oil assessment of the Williston Basin. The USGS last provided an updated Williston Basin assessment in 2013, which Hoeven said was, “tremendously helpful in attracting infrastructure investment along with energy development.”

Kimball said, if nominated, she would work with Hoeven and other states in updating their respective assessment of oil or gas reserves. According to the USGS, the Williston Basin currently holds roughly 7.4 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil—more than twice the previous USGS estimate, but less than state oil regulators and industry experts believe is present in the Williston Basin petroleum system.

In addition to questions for Kimball on the possibility of an updated Williston Basin oil assessment, Hoeven also grilled Kristen Sarri,  nominee for the position of assistant secretary for policy, management and budget at the U.S. Department of Interior. Hoeven specifically asked Sarri about hydraulic fracturing regulations on federal and tribal lands.

“Why is it necessary to have duplicate regulations?” he asked. “Why not work with the states that already have those regulations in place? We do that in many other aspects of energy oversight and regulation.”

Sarri said that if nominated she would work with all states that have duplicative regulations to remedy the situation. “I think you’re right, when you look at regulations, you have to look at what the state rule is and what the states have in play and also what the federal rule is,” she said.

The Bureau of Land Management’s hydraulic fracturing rule, released earlier this year, includes several key elements that some states are already utilizing or have implemented into their own respective regulatory frameworks, including: well-integrity validation proven through cement logging tests; disclosure of chemicals used in well stimulation to the BLM within 30 days of well’s completion; standards for interim storage of flowback and produced water; submittal of detailed information used in well design, including geology, depth and location of preexisting wells.