DOI releases revised proposal to regulate hydraulic fracturing

The US Department of the Interior released a revised proposal to regulate hydraulic fracturing on public and Indian lands that it said would maintain important safety standards, improve integration with existing state and tribal rules, and increase flexibility for oil and gas producers.

Oil and gas trade associations immediately said the new proposal unnecessarily duplicates state regulations that are already effective—the same criticism they had of DOI’s initial draft proposal in 2012, which was subsequently withdrawn for revisions. Comments on the new proposal will be accepted for 30 days.

DOI said the new draft proposal contains the original’s three main components: requiring operators to disclose chemicals they use in fracing activities on public lands; improving well bore integrity assurances to verify that frac fluids do not contaminate groundwater; and confirming that oil and gas operators have a water management plan for handling flowback fluids.

It said the new draft proposal addresses many of more than 177,000 public comments that the US Bureau of Land Management received during the first proposal’s 120-day public comment period last fall, as well as other feedback from eight forums and other meetings held with American Indian tribal representatives.

DOI said the new proposal revises the array of tools operators may use to show water is being protected, and provides more guidance on trade secret disclosure, while providing additional flexibility for meeting these objectives.

Variance process

It said while the revised draft still seeks to establish baseline environmental safeguards across all public and Indian lands, it also complements efforts of Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, Texas, and other states which regulate fracing. The new proposal includes a variance process that allows for deferring to states and tribes which already have standards that meet or exceed those proposed by this rule, DOI noted.

It said while BLM is not proposing a material change in the provision allowing flowback fluids to be stored either in tanks or lined pits, comments are being sought on costs and benefits of requiring those fluids to be stored only in closed tanks.

“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,” BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze said on May 16 when the revised draft proposal was released.

“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,” Kornze said.

But oil and gas trade associations and related groups quickly found problems with the new draft proposal. “States have led the way in regulating hydraulic fracturing operations while protecting communities and the environment for decades,” American Petroleum Institute Upstream and Industry Operations Director Erik Milito said on May 16.

“While changes to the proposed rule attempt to better acknowledge the state role, BLM has yet to answer the question why [it] is moving forward with these requirements in the first place,” he said.

Solves no problems

“Unfortunately, the rule solves no existing problem, but creates additional burdens for independent producers and state regulators,” Independent Petroleum Association of America Pres. Barry Russell said. “If [DOI] believes there are gaps in state regulations of oil and gas, [it] should work with the states to implement changes rather than imposing a costly and burdensome rule on independent producers.”

IPAA plans to ask that the comment period be extended, and looks forward to meeting with BLM to discuss the new draft, he added.

Karen A. Harbert, president of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, said the new proposal itself points out duplications that would exist, saying “operators with leases on federal lands must comply with both BLM’s regulations and with state operating requirements, including state permitting and notice requirements to the extent they do not conflict with BLM regulations.”

Ross Eisenberg, vice-president of energy and resources policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, meanwhile, stated, “Reactive federal regulations can harm gains resulting from increased exploration of shale oil and gas. Limiting the comment period for this rule to only 30 days is simply not enough time to evaluate such complex regulations. Shale development represents a major energy advantage that could create a million manufacturing jobs by 2025.”

Kathleen Sgamma, vice-president of government and public affairs at the Western Energy Alliance in Denver, said, “While the current rule is better than the first impractical rule, DOI still has not justified [it] from an economic or scientific point of view. It continues to second guess states and tribes, and will hurt job creation and economic growth in western communities.”

Amy Farrell, vice-president of regulatory affairs at America’s Natural Gas Alliance, said the organization of larger gas producers was encouraged that the Obama administration revisited its original proposal and apparently made some favorable changes, including accounting for states’ expertise and work. “We will reserve judgment on the proposal more broadly until we have had a chance to thoroughly evaluate it,” she said.

Contact Nick Snow at

Related Articles

PHMSA proposes pipeline accident notification regulations

07/02/2015 The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has proposed new federal oil and gas pipeline accident and notification regulations. ...

BHI: US oil rig count rises for first time in 30 weeks

07/02/2015 A sudden 12-unit jump in oil-directed rigs during the abbreviated week ended July 2 represented their first rise since Dec. 5, 2014, and helped lif...

FourPoint Energy to acquire Anadarko basin assets from Chesapeake

07/02/2015 FourPoint Energy LLC, a privately owned Denver company, plans to acquire oil and gas assets from Chesapeake Energy Corp. subsidiaries Chesapeake Ex...

Puma Energy completes purchase of Murco’s UK refinery, terminals

07/02/2015 Singapore-based Puma Energy Group Pte. has completed its purchase of UK midstream and downstream assets from Murco Petroleum Ltd., a subsidiary of ...

BP to settle federal, state Deepwater Horizon claims for $18.7 billion

07/02/2015 BP Exploration & Production Inc. has agreed in principle to settle all federal and state claims arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon inciden...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX oil prices plummet on crude inventory build, Iran deadline extension

07/02/2015 Oil prices plummeted more than $2/bbl July 1 to settle at a 2-month low on the New York market after a weekly government report showed the first ri...

API to issue recommended practice to address pipeline safety

07/01/2015 The American Petroleum Institute expects to issue a new recommended practice in another few weeks that addresses pipeline safety issues, but the tr...

Shell Midstream Partners takes interest in Poseidon oil pipeline

07/01/2015 Shell Midstream Partners LP has completed its acquisition of 36% equity interest in Poseidon Oil Pipeline Co. LLC from Equilon Enterprises LLC, a s...

Shell makes FID on Appomattox deepwater development in Gulf of Mexico

07/01/2015 Royal Dutch Shell PLC has taken a final investment decision (FID) on the Appomattox deepwater development, authorizing construction and installatio...
White Papers

Definitive Guide to Cybersecurity for the Oil & Gas Industry

In the Oil and Gas industry, there is no single adversary and no single threat to the information tech...

UAS Integration for Infrastructure: More than Just Flying

Oil and gas companies recognize the benefits that the use of drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) c...

Solutions to Financial Distress Resulting from a Weak Oil and Gas Price Environment

The oil and gas industry is in the midst of a prolonged worldwide downturn in commodity prices. While ...
Sponsored by

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts

Better Data, Better Analytics, Better Decisions

When Tue, Oct 27, 2015

The Oil & Gas industry has large amounts of data stored in multiple systems which are purpose built for certain tasks. However, good decisions require insights based upon the data in all of these systems. These systems in turn do not talk to each other. So the process of analyzing data, gaining insights, and making decisions is a slow one and often a flawed one. Good decisions require accurate analytics and accurate analytics require superior/sustainable data quality and governance. This webinar focuses on:

  • The importance of data quality and governance
  • How technological advances are making data quality and governance sustainable in order to get the accurate analytics to make solid decisions.

Please join us for this webcast sponsored by Seven Lakes Technologies and Noah Consulting.


Operating a Sustainable Oil & Gas Supply Chain in North America

When Tue, Oct 20, 2015

Short lead times and unpredictable conditions in the Oil & Gas industry can create costly challenges in supply chains. By implementing a LEAN culture of continuous improvement you can eliminate waste, increase productivity and gain end-to-end visibility leading to a sustainable and well-oiled supply chain.

Please join us for this webcast sponsored by Ryder System, Inc.


On Demand

Leveraging technology to improve safety & reliability

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

Attend this informative webinar to learn more about how to leverage technology to meet the new OSHA standards and protect your employees from the hazards of arc flash explosions.


The Resilient Oilfield in the Internet of Things World

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

As we hear about the hype surrounding the Internet of Things, the oil and gas industry is questioning what is different than what is already being done. What is new?  Using sensors and connecting devices is nothing new to our mode of business and in many ways the industry exemplifies many principles of an industrial internet of things. How does the Internet of Things impact the oil and gas industry?

Prolific instrumentation and automation digitized the industry and has changed the approach to business models calling for a systems led approach.  Resilient Systems have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining their central purpose.  A resilient system, such as Maximo, allows an asset intensive organization to leverage connected devices by merging real-time asset information with other critical asset information and using that information to create a more agile organization.  

Join this webcast, sponsored by IBM, to learn how about Internet of Things capabilities and resilient systems are impacting the landscape of the oil and gas industry.


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!


Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected