The 2015 Clean Water Rule's impact on oil and gas development in the Bakken Shale
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The 2015 Clean Water Rule (CWR) amended the definition of aquatic resources under the federal jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Jurisdiction is re-asserted over a specified portion of aquatic resources legally designated as isolated. The “isolated waters” stipulations apply to the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR), a region recently threatened by heightened oil and gas activity associated with the economic productivity of the underlying Bakken shale. The architects of the CWR claim it does not dramatically expand the jurisdictional scope of the CWA. The Oil and Gas Industry refutes this notion claiming the expansionary nature of the CWR will dramatically increase indirect costs associated with the CWA Section 404 dredge and fill provisions, crippling production in select regions. This study incorporates GIS spatial analysis with predictive modeling tools to determine the CWR’s impact to oil and gas development in the Bakken Shale portion of the PPR. More specifically, this study estimates and characterizes the extent of geographically isolated waters in the study region, determines the scope of jurisdiction within the study region based upon the CWR’s stipulations, and forecasts the economic impact to the oil and gas industry based upon the industry’s development footprint from 2006-2014. Results reaffirm the substantial amount of aquatic resources located within the study region. Furthermore, a significant portion of those resources will become jurisdictional under the new rule. However, the impacts to oil and gas industry are not expected to parallel the increase in jurisdiction. Development patterns over the last decade reveal an insignificant number of permanent impacts to wetlands associated with the development of 4,000 wells. Instead, the estimated increase in jurisdiction will increase the importance of incorporating environmental awareness measures into current operations to alleviate inevitable costs associated with delays, mitigation, and compensation, all while ensuring the industry’s long-term sustainability.