US gov. releases new rules for fracking on fed owned land

World Today

Gas drilling rig at a well site for shale based natural gas in Zelienople, Pa. (AP/Keith Srakocic, 2012)

After four years of review, the U.S. government has released new rules for hydraulic fracturing or fracking on public and tribal lands in the US. The rule will apply to more than 100,000 oil and gas wells. More than 90 percent use the practice of so-called fracking in which fluid with sand particles is forced deep underground to fracture shale deposits which then releases oil or natural gas for harvest.

Simon Fraser University/ CCTV

image: Simon Fraser University/ CCTV

“Current federal well drilling regulations are more than 30 years old and they simply have not kept pace with the technical complexities of today’s hydraulic fracturing operations”, US Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement. “This updated and strengthened rule provides a framework of safeguards and disclosure protocols that will allow for the continued responsible development of our federal oil and gas resources.”

The rules require energy companies to reinforce boreholes and otherwise prevent leakage and provide data on the cocktail of chemicals that helps extract crude oil and gas out of the ground. The rules will add transparency to the practice, long shrouded by companies reluctant to reveal trade secrets. Environmental groups lauded the decision.

“The only true way to protect communities from fracking is to not frack at all,” Dan Chu, a senior director for the Sierra Club said.

In response to the rule, the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and Western Energy Alliance filed a lawsuit against the US government. The complaint characterizes the rule as “a reaction to unsubstantiated concerns” and requests the regulations be set aside, according to a statement released by IPAA.

Although only about 10 percent of fracking occurs on federal lands, the Obama administration is hoping the new rules will become a model for industry standards elsewhere, especially in states that do not have fracking rules.

Report compiled by CCTV’s Jessica Stone using information from Reuters.