Business, Economics and Jobs

New fracking rule proposed by Obama administration


A Cabot Oil and Gas natural gas drill is viewed at a hydraulic fracturing site in Springville, Pa., on January 17, 2012.


Spencer Platt

The Obama administration has proposed an update to its rules on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and gas on public lands, Reuters reported. These rules were last updated in 1988, the New York Times reported.

The proposed rule requires that companies get approval from the government before using the drilling technique, which injects water, sand and chemicals under high pressure into shale rock to access the oil and gas trapped inside, Reuters reported. The rule also requires companies to reveal the chemicals they use.

Drilling companies have said they don’t want to reveal the chemicals they use in fracking because that is proprietary information, Reuters reported. However, many communities are concerned that fracking contaminates groundwater.

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"As we continue to offer millions of acres of America's public lands for oil and gas development, it is critical that the public have full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement, according to Reuters.

However, the proposed rule may not alleviate the public’s fears. Companies only have to reveal the chemicals they use after they have completed drilling, not before, the New York Times reported. An earlier version of the rule that would have required chemicals be disclosed 30 days before drilling began was changed after lobbyists for oil producers argued that it might jeopardize their trade secrets.

According to the New York Times:

Interior Department officials said that having a record would allow scientists to trace any future contamination and that it did not matter whether the fluids were disclosed before or after drilling.

Also, the proposed rule does not apply to drilling on private land, where most fracking occurs, Reuters reported. Only about 5 percent of shale wells drilled in the US in the past 10 years are on federal lands, according to the Guggenheim Washington Research Group, Reuters reported.

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