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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed a new rule to further regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal lands. This expensive regulation will make it even more difficult to produce oil and gas on federal lands. The Obama Administration needs to hear your voice today. Use the form below to send them a message that we need more energy production and less ever-increasing regulation.

 

Hydraulic fracturing on public lands is currently regulated by the states, and the BLM’s proposed rule would usurp that authority.  The rule is estimated to cost between $1.49 billion and $1.61 billion per year, and would further hinder the ability to produce oil and gas on federal lands.  The public has until September 10 to comment on the rule.

Background

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has recently proposed to subject hydraulic fracturing on public lands to federal regulation for the first time. Hydraulic fracturing is a drilling process that utilizes a highly pressurized mixture of water, sand and chemicals to extract oil and gas from shale rock formations, and has been used since 1947 in over 1.2 million wells without a single confirmed case of groundwater contamination.

Hydraulic fracturing was first pioneered in the United States, and recent advances in its use—like the combination of hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling—have contributed to the recent natural gas and oil booms seen in places like Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale and North Dakota’s Bakken Formation. The map below illustrates the location of various shale plays where hydraulic fracturing is primarily used:

The important role that hydraulic fracturing has played in revolutionizing the way we produce energy here in the United States cannot be understated. To this point, in 2008—the first year that hydraulic fracturing was widely employed with horizontal drilling—the estimates of recoverable oil in the Bakken Formation jumped from 151 million barrels of oil to over 3 billion barrels of oil. Moreover, the United States is now the world’s largest producer of natural gas in large measure because of hydraulic fracturing.

Proposed Federal Regulation

Since its inception, hydraulic fracturing has been regulated by the states—including its use on federal lands—and existing laws like the federal Safe Drinking Water Act have affirmed that state regulators have primary oversight authority over the drilling technology. The BLM’s proposed rule would reverse this relationship, establishing the federal government’s authority over hydraulic fracturing on public lands.

Hydraulic fracturing has a well-established track record as a safe, proven drilling technology; as such, the BLM’s decision to usurp state regulatory authority is questionable. Over the course of more than sixty years, there have been no confirmed incidents of groundwater contamination due to hydraulic fracturing operations. The nation’s chief environmental regulator, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, has confirmed this fact herself. Moreover, provisions in BLM’s rule like the requirement that operators disclose the contents of hydraulic fracturing fluids are already in place in many of the states that have oil and gas operations, and over 206 companies thus far have voluntarily disclosed this information through the FracFocus database.

Nonetheless, BLM’s rule would impose a costly new layer of reporting requirements that will inevitably stifle producers’ ability to operation on taxpayer-owned land. According to a recent economic analysis, the estimated costs of the BLM’s redundant regulations are between $1.49 billion and $1.61 billion each year, and will affect more than 5,000 wells. These costs will not only impact well operators, they also affect consumers that lose the benefit of oil and gas production here in the United States, and taxpayers who lose the benefit of the royalties generated by producing our natural resources.

Current Status

The deadline for the public and interested stakeholders to comment on BLM’s regulation was originally slated to close on July 10; however, the agency recently pushed back the deadline by two months. According to White House Energy Adviser Heather Zichal, there are “pretty significant things within [the proposal] that need to be fixed and addressed.” No changes have been made to the rule as of yet, however, and Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has been firm in his assertion that a rule establishing federal authority over hydraulic fracturing on public lands will be finalized this year.

The BLM’s rule has been published in the Federal Register and can be viewed here. The deadline to comment on the rule closes on September 10, 2012. Use the form at the top of the page to send your comments to the Obama Administration.