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Updated Draft Proposal for New Hydraulic Fracturing Rule

frackingThe U.S. Department of the Interior has released an updated draft proposal and extended the comment period for new safety standards for hydraulic fracturing. The new proposal maintains important safety standards, improves integration with existing state and tribal standards, and increases flexibility for oil and gas developers.

“As the President has made clear, this administration’s priority is to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production. In line with that goal, we are proposing some commonsense updates that increase safety while also providing flexibility and facilitating coordination with states and tribes,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in a release. “As we continue to offer millions of acres of America’s public lands for oil and gas development, it is important that the public has full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place.”

Approximately 90 percent of wells drilled on federal and American Indian land employ the use of hydraulic fracturing, but the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) current regulations governing hydraulic fracturing operations on public land were not written to address modern hydraulic fracturing activities. The revised proposed rule will modernize BLM’s management of hydraulic fracturing operations and help to establish baseline environmental safeguards across all public and American Indian lands.

The updated draft proposal maintains the three main components of the initial proposal:

  • Requires operators to disclose the chemicals used during fracturing activities on public lands
  • Improves assurances of well-bore integrity to verify that fluids used during fracturing operations are not contaminating groundwater
  • Confirms that oil and gas operators have a water management plan in place for handling fluids that flow back to the surface

The lastest proposal revises the array of tools operators may use to show that water is being protected and provides more guidance on trade secret disclosure. While the revised draft seeks to establish baseline environmental safeguards across all public and American Indian lands, it also complements efforts of several States that are regulating hydraulic fracturing, including North Dakota and Wyoming. The proposal also defers to States and Tribes that already have standards in place that meet or exceed those identified in the proposed rule.

The Department of the Interior received over 177,000 public comments following the release of the initial draft proposal in 2012. The current public comment period will close on August 23, 2013. Once the new public comments have been collected and analyzed, the BLM expects to issue a final rule. To view the updated hyrdraulic fracturing rule draft proposal, click here.


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