New Fracking Rules for Public Lands

New Regulations For Fracking on Public Lands
New Regulations For Fracking on Public Lands

After a four-year process that included over 1.5 million public comments, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized new rules on Friday to regulate hydraulic oil and gas fracturing on public lands.

Related: GOP to Oppose Hydraulic Fracturing Regulations

Since 2007, there has been a steady increase in the use of hydraulic fracturing, but the rules to oversee the practice had not been updated in three decades. The BLM began its work to update existing rules in 2010 after growing public concern amidst the shale oil boom that expanded the use of hydraulic fracturing, the technology that extracts oil from the rock.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said that “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.

The rules go into effect in 90 days and require the following:

  •  A validation of well integrity in order to protect groundwater supplies
  •  Companies to publicly disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing through the website FracFocus, within 30 days of completing fracturing operations
  • Higher standards for interim storage of recovered waste fluids from hydraulic fracturing to mitigate risks to air, water and wildlife
  •  Companies to submit more detailed information before fracking to reduce the risk of cross-well contamination

This ruling only applies to development on public and tribal lands and could potentially impact more than 90,000 oil and gas wells and set a precedent for future regulations.

Response to the ruling has been swift, with environment groups applauding this as a necessary first step towards protecting our public lands. But the backlash from the energy industry was just as quick with Independent Petroleum Association of America already filing a lawsuit that challenges the regulation.