Natural Resources Committee Maintains Aggressive Oversight of Obama Administration's Overregulation of Hydraulic FracturingPosted by Spencer Pederson on February 06, 2012
The Obama Administration’s Interior Department is one step closer to imposing new federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing on federal lands—a long standing drilling technique that is necessary to extract oil and natural gas from shale reservoirs.
A draft copy of the new regulations, reported last Thursday by Politico, show that the Obama Administration is preparing to add significant red tape and delays to the job creating energy production that comes from harnessing U.S. shale gas resources. Chairman Hastings noted:
Hydraulic fracturing has been effectively regulated by states for over 60 years and is responsible for 30 percent of our domestic oil and natural gas production. From the first moment Secretary Salazar in November 2010 mentioned possible new federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing on federal lands, House Natural Resources Committee Republicans have conducted aggressive oversight on this issue:
Exclusive: First glimpse of fracking rules
Draft Interior Department regulations would require natural gas operators on public lands to disclose the “complete chemical makeup” of any proposed fracking fluids, as well as the amounts they’re using, according to a copy obtained by POLITICO.
Operators could claim an exemption from the disclosure requirement only by identifying laws that either already require disclosure or specifically protect the information.
The rules would also require operators to seek approval for fracking operations and lay out a record-keeping structure to document compliance.
The draft document provides the first real glimpse into a cadre of regulations that Interior has been considering for months. The department has been tight-lipped about details, although Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has said they will cover well-bore integrity, fracking fluid disclosure and flowback waters.
The department has no projected date for the draft’s official release. But on Thursday, spokesman Adam Fetcher provided a bit more detail about what Salazar and the department hope to achieve with the rules, based on preliminary input from the industry, other groups and the public.
“Those measures are straightforward: 1) requiring public disclosure of chemicals used in fracking, with appropriate protections for trade secrets; 2) improving assurances on well-bore integrity so we know fluids going into the well aren’t escaping; and 3) making sure companies have a water management plan in place for fluids that flow back to the surface,” Fetcher said.
“We will continue to gather public input throughout this process to ensure that the disclosure rule enhances public confidence in hydraulic fracturing on public lands, while also encouraging continued safe and responsible exploration and production for many decades to come,” he said.
But House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) called the draft a recipe for “new job-destroying regulations,” which “will add significant barriers to the production of natural gas — one of America’s most promising and abundant energy resources.”
“This regulation continues President Obama’s long record of restricting American energy production at a cost of lost jobs, higher prices and a prolonged dependence on foreign energy,” Hastings added.
Under the draft proposal:
In his State of the Union Speech last week, President Barack Obama pointed to shale gas as a key energy resource for the nation, and hinted at hydraulic fracturing without mentioning that term outright.
Obama also promised that “America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk,” and said all companies drilling for gas on public lands would have to disclose the chemicals they use.
But for months before the speech, Interior has been working to draft the regulations to make that happen.
Along the way, Interior said the rules have been shaped by December meetings with regional and local members of the Bureau of Land Management, as well as January consultations with American Indian tribe members in Tulsa, Salt Lake City, Billings, Mont., and Farmington, N.M.
Once Interior incorporates the feedback into the proposed rules, a formal copy of the draft regulations will be released and open to public comment. Industry, states and citizens will then be able to submit their thoughts.