Friday, March 20, 2015

Rules regulate fracking on federal land, site of only 8% of drilling, but could provide a standard

The Obama administration released the first nationwide safety restrictions on horizontal hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas today. "The Interior Department’s rules are the federal government’s most comprehensive foray to date toward regulating the technology at the heart of the U.S. oil and gas boom, addressing worries such as potential dangers to drinking water," Elana Schor reports for Politico. "They will also offer oil and gas supporters new room to accuse President Barack Obama of seeking to throttle fossil-fuel production, despite his repeated boasts about the nation’s booming energy supplies."

While the proposed rules are being applauded by critics of fracking, they "fall short of environmentalists’ biggest demands for oversight of fracking operations—let alone some groups’ calls for an all-out ban. Interior’s proposal would apply only to land owned by the federal government or Indian tribes, so it wouldn’t end the current patchwork of state laws and local ordinances governing the practice in hot spots like Pennsylvania, south Texas and North Dakota," Schor writes. 

The industry and its supporters in Congress call the rules an overreach, "arguing that greens are massively exaggerating the dangers and that states are adequately regulating the industry already," Schor reports. For a story about the rules from ProPublica, which has been following the issue for years, click here.

UPDATE, March 25: Only 8 percent of U.S. drilling occurs on federal , but the rules "signal a continued willingness after President Obama's last election to set aside oil industry lobbying points, even if his administration also ignored some pleas from green groups," Mike Soraghan reports for Environment & Energy News. "And by sitting federal land managers in judgment of state rules, it may come close to being a national standard for all drilling rules to be measured against." (Read more; subscription may be required)

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