The Department of the Interior recently announced the release of an updated draft of proposed safety standards for hydraulic fracturing on public and Indian lands. The update to the 2012 initial draft reflects feedback-including 177,000 public comments-on safety standards for the practice.
The goal, Interior says, is to improve safety while increasing 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. “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.”
Hydraulic fracturing is used in about nine out of 10 wells drilled on federal and Indian lands. However, Bureau of Land Management regulations on the practice haven’t been revised in more than 30 years and don’t take into account modern fracking methods. The revised rules will establish basic safeguards for the practice in all public and Indian lands.
The updated proposal requires operators to disclose chemicals used in fracking on public lands and provides guidance on trade secret disclosure, works to verify fluids used in fracking do not contaminated groundwater, and requires oil and gas operators to have a water management plan for fluids that flow back to the surface.
“We know from experience that hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling methods can be used safely and effectively, employing many of the best management practices reflected in this draft rule,” said BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze. The Bureau falls under the Interior Department.
“Our thorough review of all the comments convinced us that we could maintain a strong level of protection of health, safety, and the environment while allowing for increased flexibility and reduced regulatory duplication.”
Domestic production from more than 92,000 oil and gas wells on public lands accounts for about 13 percent of U.S. natural gas production and 5 percent of U.S. oil production.
The update is open for public comment for 30 days. BLM will release a final rule after comments have been collected and analyzed.
Read the draft proposal here.