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New hydraulic fracturing rules proposed

May 17, 2013|By W.J. Hennigan
  • Workers tend to a well head at a hydraulic fracturing operation in Rifle, Colo.
Workers tend to a well head at a hydraulic fracturing operation in Rifle,… (Brennan Linsley / Associated…)

Hydraulic fracturing, the process that involves shooting millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to crack shale formations and unlock oil and gas, would become more difficult under new rules proposed by the Interior Department.

As The Times reported, the government on Thursday proposed new rules to regulate “fracking” on federal land. The process has been criticized for being environmentally unsafe; critics want to know what chemicals are being injected, and they want to ensure that air and water supplies are protected. Companies involved in the work have resisted disclosing what chemicals they use.

The Interior Department said its proposal maintains three main components from an initial draft -- “requiring operators to disclose the chemicals they use in fracturing activities on public lands; improving assurances of well-bore integrity to verify that fluids used during fracturing operations are not contaminating groundwater; and confirming that oil and gas operators have a water management plan in place for handling fluids that flow back to the surface.”

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement: “As the President has made clear, this administration’s priority is to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production. In line with that goal, we are proposing some commonsense updates that increase safety while also providing flexibility and facilitating coordination with states and tribes.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, said the draft rules don’t go far enough and would leave drinking water supplies for millions of Americans at risk.

“These rules protect industry, not people,” said the group’s president, Frances Beinecke. “With fracking already moving full steam ahead on federal lands, we need protective ground rules for communities and the environment. Instead, this draft is a blueprint for business-as-usual industrialization of our landscapes.”


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