Companies must disclose fracking chemicals on public lands - Obama admin

Reuters / Andrew Cullen
Companies who employ hydraulic fracturing ‒ also known as fracking ‒ on public and American Indian lands will have to publicly disclose what chemicals they use during the process, according to fracking rules released by the government.

The Bureau of Land Management issued the first federal regulations of fracking on Friday, which come into effect in 90 days. Along with disclosing the chemicals, companies will have to ensure the protection of groundwater supplies, increase their standards for interim storage of recovered waste fluids, and take measures to lower the risk of cross-well contamination.

“Current federal well-drilling regulations are more than 30 years old and they simply have not kept pace with the technical complexities of today’s hydraulic fracturing operations,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement. “[I]t is absolutely critical the public have confidence that transparent and effective safety and environmental protections are in place.”

The new rule provides a framework of safeguards and disclosure protocols to allow for the “continued responsible development” of federal resources, Jewell said.

The BLM’s final rule came after receiving 1.5 million public comments during a four-year process to update onshore oil and gas drilling regulations. It will cover the more than 100,000 wells on about 700 million acres of underground mineral rights on federally managed lands, or about 90 percent of wells on public lands.

States and tribes will be able to request variances from the provisions if they have an equal or more protective regulation in place, the agency said. Many of the provisions in the rule are similar to or based on existing state or tribal rules and industry best practices.

“This rule will protect public health and the environment during and after hydraulic fracturing operations at a modest cost while both respecting the work previously done by the industry, the states and the tribes and promoting the adoption of more protective standards across the country,” said Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Janice Schneider. “It will be implemented in the most efficient way possible to avoid duplication or unnecessary activities by industry, other regulators, or BLM staff. We know how important it is to get this right.”

READ MORE: ‘Fracking loophole’ allows drilling companies to use unregulated toxins – report

BLM estimates the new rule will cost less than one-fourth of 1 percent of the cost of drilling a well, based on the Energy Information Administration’s average per well cost of $5.4 million.

In spite of receiving input from the oil and gas industry, supporters accuse President Barack Obama and his administration of seeking to throttle fossil-fuel production in the US.

“Despite the renaissance on state and private lands, energy production on federal lands has fallen, and this rule is just one more barrier to growth,” Erik Milito, director of upstream operations for the American Petroleum Institute in Washington, said in a statement.

Environmental groups are applauding the new rule, but would like it to go further, Bloomberg reported. They are prodding the Environmental Protection Agency and BLM to issue tight restrictions on methane leaks from fracked wells, a source of greenhouse gases.