Watching Government: BLM's proposed fracing rules

May 14, 2012
The US Bureau of Land Management didn't have to wait long for comments about its proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations.

The US Bureau of Land Management didn't have to wait long for comments about its proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations. Oil and gas groups and environmental organizations quickly found problems with the May 4 proposal.

Industry groups pointed out that many states already have effective regulations. "Each state has unique geologic and surface conditions that are more effectively regulated and managed at the state level," American Exploration & Production Council Pres. Bruce Thompson said.

"This proposed rule is a solution looking for a problem and is another effort to federalize the regulation of the production of our nation's energy resources," he continued. "The result of the imposition of this proposed rule would be higher energy costs, fewer jobs, lower revenue to the US Treasury, all for no positive benefit."

American Natural Gas Alliance Executive Vice-Pres. Tom Amontree said ANGA would thoroughly review BLM's proposal, but added that at first glance, the US Department of the Interior in general and BLM in particular "may not fully appreciate the significant regulatory steps already undertaken by states such as Colorado, Texas, Wyoming, and others to oversee the safe and responsible development of natural gas through the use of hydraulic fracturing."

In recognizing, BLM acknowledged that states, through the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission, have established an effective system for disclosing frac fluid components, according to Amontree. That acknowledgment apparently displeased other organizations, however.

Public site needed

"In the interest of transparency, the disclosure of chemicals must be available on a public, government web site," said John Podesta, chairman of the Center for American Progress. "The draft rule proposes using an industry web site to share information with the public, though this falls below standards set by many state governments who already have activated sites to provide this information to the public.

"As with the Toxic Release Inventory, this responsibility to protect all citizens who may be affected falls on the government, and it should not rely on industry to do so on its own," he maintained.

Environmental groups also objected to BLM's decision to let producers disclose frac fluid ingredients once the operation is complete. "Industry does not inspire confidence when it balks at the notion of sharing chemical ingredients up-front," said Amy Mall, a Natural Resources Defense Council senior policy analyst. "Communities shouldn't have to wait for that information until after the deed is done."

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune added, "While it is disappointing that [fracing] on sensitive public lands has been considered at all, we fully expect the administration to implement the toughest safeguards possible to rein in irresponsible practices and protect our public spaces."

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About the Author

Nick Snow

NICK SNOW covered oil and gas in Washington for more than 30 years. He worked in several capacities for The Oil Daily and was founding editor of Petroleum Finance Week before joining OGJ as its Washington correspondent in September 2005 and becoming its full-time Washington editor in October 2007. He retired from OGJ in January 2020.