Department of Interior Releases Draft Fracking Rules

Oil rig on a prairie

Today the U.S. Department of the Interior released draft rules governing hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking. The new rule covers federal lands and Indian lands.

The draft rule has three main requirements:

1)  Drilling companies must publicly disclose the chemicals used in fracking on public and Indian lands. The disclosure would occur after fracking operations have been completed. Having records of what chemicals were injected into the rock will allow later tracking of any contamination.

Drilling companies had been concerned that disclosing the fracking chemicals before drilling would delay the permitting process. This concession will allay those fears.

Several states already require companies to post a list of their chemicals to an online database, FracFocus, which is available to the public. Companies drilling on public and Indian lands might use the same site.

2)  Before fracking, drilling companies will need to submit information showing they have tested the well and the cement casing has shown sufficient integrity to withstand fracking pressures.  Testing the well is standard procedure with most companies and should not be a problem.

3)  A water management plan will be required. During fracking, some of the water and chemicals injected into the ground comes back up through the well. This water will be stored in enclosed tanks or in lined pits.

Many drilling companies already follow the required procedures and keep the necessary documentation. The new rule was designed to be in accord with state regulations already in existence.

The rule applies to all “usable water’, which is not limited to fresh water, but includes water used for industrial and agricultural purposes.

The additional costs of the regulation is estimated at approximately $15,000 per well, or 0.3% of the cost of a well.

The Department of the Interior will accept public comments for sixty days before issuing the final rule.

Oil rig on a prairie via Shutterstock

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Author: Heather Carr

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