The federal government unveiled the first safety mandates for fracking operations on federal and Indian lands on Friday.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a controversial process that involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into a well to extract oil or gas. Environmentalists say fracking poses health risks. The new rule will take effect in 90 days, according to the Bureau of Land Management.
“Many of the regulations on the books today haven’t kept pace with advances in technology,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said on a media conference call.
The plan has several key components: provisions for ensuring groundwater protection though well integrity standards, increased transparency by requiring companies to publicly disclose chemicals they use, higher storage standards, and requiring companies submit more detailed information on preexisting wells.
“Most Americans would call them common sense,” Jewell said on the call of the new rules, which were developed over a four-year process and received more than 1.5 million public comments.
Although these new rules will not be applicable tofracking operations on private or state-owned land, the guidelines create a baseline set of safety standards, officials said on the call.
A number of states with public oil and gas activity have no fracking regulations, Jewell said, although some states do have standards on their books.
About 90 percent of all wells in the U.S. are fracked as part of their completion, and there are more than 100,000 oil and gas wells on federally managed lands, according to the BLM.
Federal onshore leases accounts for roughly 23 percent of total U.S. production, according to recent figures from the Energy Information Administration.
A key goal of the new rule is to protect water, Director of the Bureau of Land Management Neil Kornze said on the call. He added that the costs to comply with the rule will represent less than one quarter of 1 percent of the price to drill a well.
The rules will add transparency to the practice, long shrouded by companies, which are reluctant to reveal “trade secrets,” environmentalists say. But some lawmakers have already made comments in opposition to the mandates.
“Federal energy regulations put forth by this administration are meant to appease the party’s liberal fringe rather than create opportunity for all Americans and strengthen our allies,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a press release after the announcement.
Industry groups were quick to criticize the proposal before its official release, warning it will slow down the U.S. “energy renaissance.”
“A duplicative layer of new federal regulation is unnecessary, and we urge the BLM to work carefully with the states to minimize costs and delays created by the new rules to ensure that public lands can still be a source of job creation and economic growth,” said Eric Milito, a director at the American Petroleum Institute.
“We expect these rules will in fact stick,” Jewell said in response a question about potential political reaction against the guidelines.
Environmental groups said the Obama administration had made progress in trying to hold oil and gas firms accountable for the environmental impact of drilling, but would have preferred bolder moves.
“The only true way to protect communities from fracking is to not frack at all,” said Dan Chu, a senior director for the Sierra Club.
The new rules will use chemical disclosure registry FracFocus, for its information gathering system.