First-Ever Federal Fracking Rules Issued by Interior Department

Despite only applying to Federal lands where a small amount of fracking takes place, energy companies are strongly opposed, perhaps fearing that states without fracking rules could adopt them, which is one of the goals of the Interior Department.
March 22, 2015, 11am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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The federal rule-making began three years ago, posted here in 2013. The final rule was filed March 20 in the Federal Register (to be published on March 26). Minutes later, "(t)wo industry groups filed a lawsuit seeking to block the rules in a federal court," write energy reporters Amy Harder and Daniel Gilbert for The Wall Street Journal. "Environmental groups said the rules don’t go far enough."

The trade groups [Independent Petroleum Association of America and Western Energy Alliance] said the new rules are a “reaction to unsubstantiated concerns” and should be thrown out. Interior Department officials said they expect the rules to withstand challenges. [See IPAA's press release].

While only 11 percent of gas and 5 percent of oil fracking takes place on federal, including tribal lands, according to Harder and Gilbert, "states and companies could move to bring their practices in line with the U.S. (rules)." Major "energy-producing states such as Colorado, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas regulate fracking already, there have been no overarching standards."

For environmental groups, the limited disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process was disappointing. Rather than disclosure to the Interior Department where they would be accessible to the public, "the new rules require companies to publicly disclose chemicals they use through an industry-run website called FracFocus within 30 days of completing the fracking process," write Harder and Gilbert.

“While this proposal has improved from previous versions, it represents a missed opportunity to set a high bar for protections that would truly increase transparency and reduce the impacts,” said Madeleine Foote, legislative representative for the League of Conservation Voters. [See their press release].

Amy Harder explains the new rules in a one-on-one interview with PBS NewsHour's Hari Sreenivasan on Friday's show.

Correspondent's note: Subscriber-only content to The Wall Street Journal article may be available to non-subscribers for up to seven days after March 21.

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Published on Friday, March 20, 2015 in The Wall Street Journal
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