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ND and WY Challenge New Federal Hydraulic Fracturing Rule

fracThe State of North Dakota is joining Wyoming in a lawsuit that challenges the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management's new federal rule for hydraulic fracturing on public and American Indian lands. Wyoming filed a lawsuit in late March and the North Dakota Industrial Commission voted shortly thereafter to participate in the process. Both states are home to substantial oil plays where hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is commonly used to extract oil. Wyoming and North Dakota leaders say the new regulations are unlawful because they interfere with regulations that are already in place in each state. However, the Bureau of Land Management says the rule includes a process to allow states and tribes to request variances from provisions when there is an equivalent or more protective regulation already in place.

There are more than 100,000 oil and gas wells on federally managed lands. Of the wells currently being drilled, more than 90 percent are completed via the use of hydraulic fracturing. In support of the new rule, Sally Jewell, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, says, “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. This updated and strengthened rule provides a framework of safeguards and disclosure protocols that will allow for the continued responsible development of our federal oil and gas resources. As we continue to offer millions of acres of public lands for conventional and renewable energy production, it is absolutely critical the public have confidence that transparent and effective safety and environmental protections are in place.”

Notable components of the new rule:  

  • Include provisions to ensure the protection of groundwater by requiring a validation of well integrity and strong cement barriers between the wellbore and water zones through which the wellbore passes.
  • Require companies to publicly disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing to the Bureau of Land Management through the website FracFocus, within 30 days of completing fracturing operations.
  • Increase standards for interim storage of recovered waste fluids from hydraulic fracturing to mitigate risks to air, water, and wildlife.
  • Lowers the risk of cross-well contamination with chemicals and fluids used in the fracturing operation, by requiring companies to submit more detailed information on the geology, depth, and location of preexisting wells.

The Bureau of Land Management finalized the rule after reviewing more than 1.5 million public comments over the course of several years. The rule takes effect on June 24, 2015.

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