On April 19, Idaho's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, chaired by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, voted unanimously to adopt temporary rules for natural gas exploration, using Wyoming's regulations as a base model. Among other things, the rules were to provide strict oversight of fracking, the process of shooting high-pressured liquids down wells to enhance gas flows.
During the same hearing, Justin Hayes, program director of the Idaho Conservation League, delivered an impassioned plea to prohibit the use of any carcinogenic chemicals in the fracking process. The commission denied Hayes' request and adopted the temporary rules, using Wyoming's procedures as a model.
But now, the Environmental Protection Agency has released new water test results showing that high levels of cancer-causing compounds and at least one chemical commonly used in hydraulic fracturing have made their way into Wyoming's aquifer. The tests were conducted in monitoring wells drilled deep into an aquifer in Pavillion, Wyo., a region that has been drilled extensively for natural gas over the last two decades and is home to hundreds of gas wells.
The gas industry has denied that its activities are responsible for the contamination. But the EPA findings included a solvent called 2-Butoxyethanol, widely used in the process of fracking. The EPA also said the water samples were saturated with methane gas that matched the deep layers of natural gas being drilled.