Interior Department Nearing Release of Fracking Regulation for Public Lands

The U.S. Department of the Interior will likely release new rules for <"">hydraulic fracturing on public lands sometime in the next month or so. At a briefing hosted by The Christian Science Monitor, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar stated his belief that fracking can be done safely, and asserted that natural-gas development is important for the country’s energy future.

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

According to a report from the Houston Chronicle, Salazar said he believed the government should require disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluids “with some safeguards concerning proprietary information.”

“The Achilles heel for natural gas in this country – a very important domestic source of energy for us – is that people don’t yet know what is being injected underground,” Salazar said, according to the Chronicle said. “So my view has been that there should be transparency and full disclosure. Otherwise people are going to get very understandably concerned.”

The new fracking rule could also include requirements for the design of wells on public lands in order to prevent natural gas from leaching into groundwater supplies, the Chronicle said.

“The rule is still in formation,” Salazar said at during the briefing. “We may be a month or so out before we actually put the specifics of it out.”

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.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the Interior Department isn’t the only federal agency currently working on fracking regulation. The Energy Department’s shale gas advisory committee is set to release its final recommendations next month.

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