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Interior Releases Draft Fracking Rule

May 8, 2012 by Eric Adair in News with 0 Comments

On May 4, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced a proposed rule that would regulate the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” on federal and native American lands.

The proposed rule, which can be found here, would (1) provide disclosure to the public of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing on public land and Indian land, (2) strengthen regulations related to well-bore integrity, and (3) address issues related to flowback water. The rule would apply to approximately 700 million subsurface acres of federal mineral estate and 56 million subsurface acres of Indian mineral estate across the United States. The rule will supplement existing federal fracking regulations, found at 43 CFR 3162.3-2, by requiring reporting specifically related to fracking activities. It will also add a new section 3163.3-3 on subsequent well operations and well stimulation. Finally, it adds new definitions related to fracking to section 3160.0-5. The specific textual changes and additions may be found beginning at page 70 of the proposed rule. Accompanying the proposed rule are BLM’s economic analysis and an appendix of related materials.

Speaking about the proposed rule, Secretary Salazar said:

As the President has made clear, this administration’s energy strategy is an all-out effort to boost American production of every available source of energy. As we continue to offer millions of acres of America’s public lands for oil and gas development, it is critical that the public have full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place. The proposed rule will modernize our management of well stimulation activities – including hydraulic fracturing – to make sure that fracturing operations conducted on public and Indian lands follow common-sense industry best practices.

The proposed federal rule follows President Obama’s April 13 Executive Order creating the Interagency Working Group to Support Safe and Responsible Development of Unconventional Domestic Natural Gas Resources, the stated purpose of which is to support safe development of natural gas by (i) coordinating agency policy activities, ensuring their efficient and effective operation and facilitating cooperation among agencies, (ii) coordinating among agencies the sharing of scientific, environmental, and related technical and economic information, (iii) engaging in long-term planning and coordination among federal entities on research, natural resource assessment, and infrastructure development, (iv) promoting interagency communication with stakeholders, and (v) consulting with other agencies and offices. It also further expands on President Obama’s remarks in his 2012 State of the Union address, when he stated:

We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly one hundred years, and my Administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.

The proposed federal disclosure requirement tracks legislation enacted by various states that requires disclosure of chemicals used in fracking, subject to claims of protection for proprietary information. Most recently, both Colorado and Texas have enacted new fracking rules. Here in California, a disclosure bill, AB 591, is pending in the Assembly, and a bill that would require notification of fracking activities to neighboring property owners, SB 1054, is pending in the Senate. Last week, the Brown administration confirmed its intent to enact fracking regulations.

For more information on this topic, please contact Eric Adair.

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