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Alaska mulls hydraulic fracturing rules

JUNEAU, Alaska, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- Alaska state laws could be revised so companies can protect their trade secrets for hydraulic fracturing fluid, Cathy Foerster, a state drilling regulator said.

Foerster, chairwoman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said the state could revise its rules on hydraulic fracturing, known also as fracking, in early 2014.

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"We've made some changes in what we proposed earlier, the most significant being that we will allow hydraulic fracturing contractors to protect the proprietary formulas of their frac fluids as trade secrets," she said in an interview with energy information provider Platts, published Tuesday.

Foerster said advocacy groups would have to pursue chemical formulas by issuing a challenge in the state's courts.

Fracking is a controversial drilling practice used to produce oil and natural gas from shale. Some of the chemicals used in the process are considered toxic. Energy companies say they need to keep their specific formulas secret.

Kara Moriarty, executive director of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, an industry trade group, said she was concerned Foerster was overreaching on some regulations, namely those concerned with water testing.

"The rules would require monitoring and testing of water wells and notification of landowners within half a mile of a well," she told Platts. "All other states require monitoring of wells within a quarter of a mile."

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Foerster's commission set a Jan. 15 date to consider the regulations.

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