New Fracking Rules Proposed for U.S. Land (March 2013)

Secretary Sally Jewell Photo by BLM

Secretary Sally Jewell Photo by BLM

May 16th, 2013 by James Amaro

The Following Article is Reposted from the New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Thursday issued a new set of proposed rules governing hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas on public lands, moving further to address industry concerns about the costs and reporting burdens of federal regulation.

Spread of Hydrofracking Could Strain Water Resources in West, Study Finds (May 2, 2013)

The new Interior Department proposal, which is subject to 30 days of public comment and further revision, disappointed environmental advocates, who had pushed for full disclosure of the chemicals used in the drilling process and tougher standards for groundwater protection and well integrity.

The new rule allows oil companies to keep some components of their drilling fluids secret and will allow them to run well integrity tests on one representative well rather than all wells in a field where the geology and well construction techniques are similar.

The proposed regulation, which revises one proposed a year ago, also allows drillers to comply with state regulations in places where federal officials deem them as tough or tougher than the applicable federal rules.

Environmental advocacy groups and industry officials were critical of the proposed rules.

“Comparing today’s rule governing fracking on public lands with the one proposed a year earlier, it is clear what happened: the Bureau of Land Management caved to the wealthy and powerful oil and gas industry and left the public to fend for itself,” said Jessica Ennis, legislative representative for Earthjustice.

Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government affairs for Western Energy Alliance, an association of oil companies, said: “While the current rule is better than the first impractical rule, D.O.I. still has not justified the rule from an economic or scientific point of view. It continues to second-guess states and tribes, and will hurt job creation and economic growth in Western communities.”

Production of domestic oil and natural gas has surged in recent years through the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and horizontal drilling.

Among the concerns of property owners and environmentalists is that operators will be able to keep the composition of the drilling fluids secret. The rule requires that most fluids be logged on the industry-operated Web site FracFocus, although certain proprietary compounds can be kept confidential.

Interior officials said that they would consider using a different reporting scheme if one can be found.

The 171-page proposal is the first significant regulation issued under the new interior secretary, Sally Jewell. Ms. Jewell worked in the oil industry in the late 1970s and proudly said that she fracked a few wells in Oklahoma.

Ms. Jewell said in a conference call for reporters that the administration would continue to lease large tracts of public and Indian lands for oil and gas development and that it was critical that rules keep pace with technology.

Anticipating criticism from environmental advocates, she said: “I know there are those who say fracking is dangerous and should be curtailed, full stop. That ignores the reality that it has been done for decades and has the potential for developing significant domestic resources and strengthening our economy and will be done for decades to come.”

The draft rule affects drilling operations on the 700 million acres of public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, as well as 56 million acres of Indian lands. The Interior Department estimates that 90 percent of the 3,400 wells drilled each year on public land use hydraulic fracturing.

Ms. Jewell said the proposal ensures that best practices would govern drilling and protect human health and the environment.  The full article is available here.