March 22, 2015

Obama Administration Releases Final Regulation For Fracking On Federal Lands

The U.S. Interior Department (DOI) last Friday released the final version of its federal regulations for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on federal lands. According DOI, the major components of the rule include:

  • Provisions to ensure the protection of groundwater supplies by requiring a validation of well integrity and strong cement barriers between the wellbore and water zones through which the wellbore passes;
  • Requirements that companies publicly disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing to the Bureau of Land Management 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;
  • Measures to lower 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 to afford the BLM an opportunity to better evaluate and manage unique site characteristics.

As noted above, the rules only pertain to fracking on public lands, which means they would be especially burdensome in the western half of the United States where the vast majority of the land is owned by the federal government. According to the National Journal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released a bill to block the regulations even before the DOI released them. (Republicans believe individual states should regulate fracking that happens within their boundaries, not the federal government.) Additionally, the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and Western Energy Alliance filed lawsuits against the rules the day they came out.