The debate over hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, on federal and tribal lands continues. As we reported in June, the US Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published a proposed rulemaking that would regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal and tribal lands. In response, the BLM has received 1,348,434 comments as of the date of this post. The comment period formally closed on August 23, though the number of posted comments still appears to be rising.
Industry groups generally maintain that federal regulation is an unnecessary imposition on a traditionally state-regulated practice. According to the Western Energy Alliance, whose comments were made on behalf of industry groups from twenty-five states, ninety-eight percent of hydraulic fracturing wells on public lands were drilled in states with modern hydraulic fracturing regulations. These commenters also claim that federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing on public lands will cost $345 million per year for natural gas producers.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) encouraged citizens opposed to the regulations to write comments to the BLM in form letters expressing concerns that the proposed hydraulic fracturing rules are “woefully inadequate.” Other environmental groups also expressed concern that the government’s proposed use of FracFocus.org, an industry-endorsed website, would render the disclosure of chemicals used in fracking less useful, because environmentalists say the site does not present data in a user-friendly format. Disclosure of fracking chemicals is a major aspect of the proposed rule.
In a July speech, President Barack Obama stated that, “cheaper costs of natural gas [are] a huge boost to our businesses here in America, so we should develop it even more.” However, the President noted that his administration will “do it in a way that protects our air and our water for our children and future generations.” As long as the federal government maintains its focus on development of natural gas resources, it is crucial for concerned businesses and organizations to keep a finger on the pulse of regulatory developments related to hydraulic fracturing.