The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

First Look: BLM’s New Fracking Rule Proposal

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted May 16, 2013

An early look at the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) proposed new rule governing hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands shows the challenge of trying to create a new rule that doesn’t just add regulation on top of effective state rules already in place.

Certainly, BLM’s aim with this rule, compared to a previous version, was to take hydraulic fracturing regulation in a better direction – acknowledging the role of the states and measures including FracFocus.org, the online fracking fluid registry. And it appears BLM has done that to some degree. Yet, the executive summary in BLM’s rule announcement and request for public comment suggests BLM itself is concerned about duplication, additional layers and potential additional delays to oil and natural gas development (emphasis added):

The BLM developed this revised proposed rule and the initial proposed rule with the intention of improving public awareness and strengthening oversight of hydraulic  fracturing operations without introducing unnecessary new procedures or delays in the process of developing oil and gas resources on public and Indian lands.

And later on:

The BLM has revised the proposed rule to reduce some of the information requirements to avoid duplication with the requirements of States (on Federal land) and tribes (on tribal land).

And still later:

The BLM will work with States and tribes to establish formal agreements that will leverage the strengths of partnerships, and reduce duplication of efforts for agencies and operators, particularly in implementing the revised proposed rule as consistently as possible with State or tribal regulations.

The question, then, is why try to create an additional regulatory regime where strong state regimes already exist – tailored by them to address the specific conditions of their individual geology, hydrology and other characteristics?

API’s Erik Milito, director of upstream and industry operations:

“States have led the way in regulating hydraulic fracturing operations while protecting communities and the environment for decades. While changes to the proposed rule attempt to better acknowledge the state role, BLM has yet to answer the question why BLM is moving forward with these requirements in the first place.”

Indeed, BLM acknowledges the key role played by FracFocus.org, which provides specific, well-by-well details on the chemicals used in fracking across the country. Again, as indicated in the passages above, the agency also acknowledges the hard work the states have done to make oil and natural gas development as safe and clean as possible – to be expected since the states have a deep interest in protecting the local environment.

More on BLM’s proposal to come, but the point worth underscoring is this: America’s oil and natural gas wealth in shale and other tight-rock formations is a game-changer in terms of energy security, jobs and economic growth, thanks largely to hydraulic fracturing. With production in federal areas currently lagging because of federal leasing and permitting policies, imposing additional regulatory layers and processes on top of effective state regulatory regimes is not the way to increase production in federal areas. Milito:

“The production of oil and natural gas from shale and tight sand formations is the most significant development in U.S. energy in generations. Confusing the regulatory system would stand in way of economic growth, job creation and the opportunity to generate billions in revenue for federal, state and local governments.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.