US Unveils New Rules to Govern Fracking on Federal Lands

The first major federal regulations on hydraulic fracking were released on Friday by the US Department of Interior.

The rules, which apply to all fracking on land owned by the US government, are the first federal standards to regulate the process – by which a mix of chemicals and water are injected into the ground in order to drill for oil and natural gas. 

The regulations require companies to disclose the specific mix of chemicals they use while fracking, and allow government workers to inspect the safety of the concrete barriers around fracking wells.

Fracking has long been controversial subject. While the innovative method has been credited with enabling the exploitation of vast oil and gas resources that companies previously could not tap, environmentalists have also expressed concerns about the consequences of the process. 

Fracking opponents have linked the process to a variety of ills ranging from contaminated water to increased earthquakes.

The regulations will only cover a small percentage of natural gas and oil drilling operations in the United States – 11% of natural gas production and 5% of oil production occur on federal lands – but they set a model for states considering fracking regulation to follow.

In a statement, interior secretary Sally Jewell said: “Current federal well-drilling regulations are more than 30 years old and they simply have not kept pace with the technical complexities of today’s hydraulic fracturing operations.”

She went on to state that “this updated and strengthened rule provides a framework of safeguards and disclosure protocols that will allow for the continued responsible development of our federal oil and gas resources. As we continue to offer millions of acres of public lands for conventional and renewable energy production, it is absolutely critical the public have confidence that transparent and effective safety and environmental protections are in place.”

The new regulations are scheduled to take effect in 90 days. 

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