State Plans to Keep Eye on Drilling Operations

LITTLE ROCK, AR - State regulators say they plan to keep a close eye on companies drilling for gas in the Fayetteville Shale formation in north Arkansas.  Environmental officials want to make sure underground water supplies, surface streams and other aspects of the environment aren't harmed by the drilling or its aftermath.

Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality director Teresa Marks says the agency needs to focus a lot of its resources on watching the drilling firms.  Those firms may also face scrutiny by field inspectors for the state Oil and Gas Commission.  That agency is looking at giving its inspectors authority to flag environmental problems.

The Fayetteville Shale formation is an unconventional source of natural gas.  The rock formation is 300 million years old and ranges in thickness from 50 to 550 feet and in depth from 1,500 to 6,500 feet.

Geologists believe the greatest reserve is in Cleburne and White counties in Region 8, as well as Conway, Faulkner and Van Buren counties.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)