Interior Department May Propose Fracking Rules for Federal Lands Next Month

Natural gas and oil drillers who want to frack on federal lands may soon have to disclose the contents of their <"">hydraulic fracturing fluids. Drilling rules being mulled by the U.S. Department of the Interior could also include new standards for wells, according to a report from Bloomberg News.

The new proposed drilling regulations could be ready in about a month, according to an Interior Department official. Deputy secretary David Hayes also told Bloomberg that they would be enacted sometime next year.

A rule requiring full disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking would include “necessary provisions related to” trade secrets, Hayes said. Other rule changes could include an extension of regulations pertaining to well-bore integrity standards to protect against leaks, and the extension of water discharge requirements, according to Bloomberg.

The department is evaluating whether producers should provide information about fracking fluids before starting or after operations are conducted, Hayes said.

“We also want to ensure that any chemicals used comply with all relevant local, state and federal laws,” he said. “So we are considering a certification requirement in that regard.”

In hydraulic fracturing, fracking fluids are injected into the ground at high pressure to shake loose gas and oil deposits. Because of a loophole in the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, energy companies are not required to disclose the chemicals used in the fluids. Studies have shown that fracking fluids often contain some hazardous chemicals, including the carcinogen, benzene, and diesel. Opponents of fracking are concerned that this type of natural gas drilling could lead to pollution of vital drinking water sources.

As we’ve reported previously, fracking is used in nine out of 10 wells on public lands, but the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, which oversees 250 million acres of public lands and 48,000 drilling leases, has not updated regulations for hydraulic fracturing in years.

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