Washington, D. C. – It is a rare occurance when the oil & gas industry and environmentalists agree on something. But when the Secretary of Interior announced new regulations on fracking, both groups have voiced opposition to the rules, although for very different reasons.
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell released new standards on hydraulic fracturing on public and American Indian lands Friday. Jewell describes the new rules as “responsible development while protecting natural resources.” However both the oil & gas industry and environmental groups are opposed to the new regulations.
Key components of the standards, which will take effect in 90 days include:
- Provisions for ensuring 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;
- Increased transparency by requiring companies to 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.
Oil & Gas Industry Says the Regulations Go To Far
In response to the new regulations, the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and Western Energy Alliance filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), challenging BLM’s issuance of regulations related to hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands. The complaint, filed in federal district court in Wyoming, characterizes BLM’s rulemaking as “a reaction to unsubstantiated concerns.”
“States have been successfully regulating fracking for decades, including on federal lands, with no incident that necessitates redundant federal regulation,” said Tim Wigley, President of Western Energy Alliance.
President and CEO of the Independent Petroleum Association of America Barry Russell said the new mandates are “the complete opposite of common-sense.”
Environmentalists Also Oppose the Regulations
Environmentalists are critical of the regulations, saying that they do not go far enough.
In a statement released by 350.org, Linda Capato, Jr. said, “These rules are toothless, and do nothing to help communities on the front lines of extreme energy extraction in the U.S. Forcing oil companies to disclose the damage they’re doing to public health is better than the status quo, but still misses the point: we need to end our flawed ‘all-of-the-above’ reliance on fracking and fossil fuels.
Food & Water Watch issued a statement that, “Regulated fracking still results in harm to people’s health, accidental spills of toxic waste, air pollution, earthquakes, drinking water contamination, habitat destruction and worsening climate change.”
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Capato said, “There’s only one solution on fracking that could protect communities from higher asthma rates, water pollution and scarcity, or the accelerating impacts of climate change — and that’s a ban.”
The BLM oversees about 700 million subsurface acres of federal mineral estate and carries out regulatory duties of the Secretary of the Interior for an additional 56 million acres of Indian mineral estate across the United States.