The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released a proposed re-draft of “commonsense safety standards” for hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian land a year after its initial proposal generated more than 177,000 mostly negative comments from the public.
According to a May 16 BLM press release, the revised regulations seek “to achieve a balance between commercial and environmental interests, streamlining or loosening many requirements and adopting existing state programs, while providing a federal backstop to ensure protection of water quality and public disclosure.”
The BLM manages more than 700 million subsurface acres of federal mineral estate and 56 million subsurface areas of Indian mineral estate across the U.S., most in the West. In May 2012, the BLM proposed the first comprehensive federal regulations on fracking since 1982, focusing on well fluid disclosure, well integrity and water management.
After receiving more than 177,000 comments on that proposal, many critical, BLM withdrew it and re-proposed new regulations in May 2013. Once the proposal is published in the Federal Register, it will be open for public comment for 30 days.
“This is an important proposal,” writes environmental and energy law attorney Wayne J D’Angelo on lexology.com, noting there are more than 92,000 oil and gas wells in operation now on federal and Indian lands. “With upwards of 90 percent of all new wells expected to utilize hydraulic fracturing technology, unconventional resources on public lands will play a key role in America’s energy future. Therefore, how we regulate those activities matters.”
The Western Energy Alliance issued a May 16 press release calling the BLM’s proposed rules “an unnecessary layer of federal regulation” that will inhibit job creation and prevent resources from being developed for energy.
“States have been successfully regulating fracking for decades, including on federal lands, with no incident of contamination that would necessitate redundant federal regulation,” Kathleen Sgamma, the alliance’s vice president of government and public affairs, said in the news release. “DOI [Department of Interior] still has not justified the rule from an economic or scientific point of view.”
Of course, many would dispute Sgamma’s contentions, especially since there are no definitive studies assessing the environmental effects of fracking.
In 2005, Congress exempted fracking from the Superfund law and the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Safe Drinking Water acts, but it wasn’t until September 2010 that the EPA began studying its potential the air and water risks. The $1.9 million study is mired in nettlesome debate about what it will and will not actually study.
There’s been little discussion about how the BLM’s new regulations will affect hunting and fishing on federal lands, as well as access to public lands leased for energy exploration.
However, several studies are seeping into the public domain from divergent sources, particularly from Pennsylvania, where the effects of fracking (mostly on private and state-owned lands) are allegedly being seen in Keystone state streams.
A study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science released in March “found that fracking has caused Keystone State rivers and streams to be muddier than normal, due to run-off from the construction involved,” writes Morgan Lyle on March 21 in The Daily Gazette.
The study concludes that 18 wells in a watershed would increase silt in streams by 5 percent. “Not disastrous, but not good, either,” Lyle writes. “And it’s easy to imagine far worse mud pollution any time you have bulldozers grinding through the woods.”
A Trout Unlimited survey of 163 Pennsylvania streams for traces of chemical pollution from fracking uncovered another threat: “The most significant impact our members are seeing on the ground is erosion and sedimentation resulting from drilling-related activities, such as construction of well pads, new roads and pipelines,” said Katy Dunlap, Trout Unlimited’s eastern water project director. “This is of particular concern to TU because science has demonstrated at least 15 different direct negative effects from sedimentation on trout and salmon, ranging from stress, altered behavior, reductions in growth and direct mortality.”
A Cornell University study of animal owners in six states — Colorado, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas — cited 24 cases where animals were potentially affected by fracking. Cornell is also studying the effects of fracking on trout streams in New York’s southern tier.
For more, go to:
— BLM seeks changes in hydraulic fracking rules
— BLM proposes revised rules on hydraulic fracturing
— Department of the Interior releases revised draft rule on hydraulic fracturing
— A frame of reference for the BLM rule
— Reasonably Foreseeable Effects of Leasing and Subsequent Activity
— Leasing on Public Lands
— Colorado Communities Take On Fight Against Energy Land Leases
— Enviros return industry fire over access to public lands
— New Fracking Rules Proposed for U.S. Land
— FLY-FISHING : Study shows sediment in streams from fracking causes problems
— Fracking: Myths and Facts
— Frack-ture: Obama tries to kill U.S. energy
— Group Asks BLM for Names of Additional Gas Lease Nominators