Bill intended to shrink delays in shallow gas wells

Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- A bill intended to speed up development of shallow natural gas fields passed the state House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Vic Kohring, R-Wasilla, stems from delays Denver-based Evergreen Resources officials said they have had getting wells permitted near Wasilla.

Company officials have said it takes longer to do work in Alaska than in Colorado because they have to comply with regulations, such as those dealing with blowout prevention equipment, that were designed for deep, high-pressure North Slope oil wells.

Kohring said those regulations are inappropriate for shallow gas wells that are more akin to water wells.

The bill would let the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission grant exceptions to the rules if the proposed change is more appropriate.

The bill passed 38-0, although some representatives expressed reservations about it.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said she did not object to what Evergreen sought, but feared the bill was too broad and could allow other exceptions to be granted elsewhere in the state without public notice.

However, she withdrew amendments aimed at tightening the bill after a lengthy break in the House proceedings during which she and other representatives huddled in what appeared at times to be tense discussions.

An amendment by Rep. Eric Croft, D-Anchorage, calling for the division to eventually write regulations specific to shallow natural gas, failed 10-28.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

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