Massive public input spurs changes; Office of Management and Budget will look at cost impacts before updated draft rule is released
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — A draft rule to govern hydraulic fracturing on public lands around the country will get another look before it’s reissued for additional public comment, federal officials said last week, explaining that they will released a revised draft sometime in the next three months, after a review by the Office of Management and Budget.
“In response to comments from stakeholders and the public, the BLM is making improvements to the draft proposal in order to maximize flexibility, facilitate coordination with state practices and ensure that operators on public lands implement best practices,” said Department of Interior spokesman Blake Androff.
The original draft version was published May 2012 and elicited 170,000 comments. Industry groups oppose a federal fracking rule because they say it would impose additional costs without adding any benefits. Existing state regulations are adequate for regulating energy development on public lands, said Kathleen Sgamma, VP of government and public affairs with the Western Energy Alliance.
“BLM has wisely resisted political pressure to rush through a highly complex and controversial rule,” Sgamma said. “We continue to believe a federal fracing rule is not necessary, as states have been effectively regulating for decades with an exemplary health, safety, and environmental record.”
“The agency intends to publish a new draft proposal in the first quarter of this year and will seek additional comments. Once comments on the updated draft have been collected and analyzed, the BLM expects to issue a final rule that will ensure that operators apply proven cost-effective safety and environmental protection processes when engaging in hydraulic fracturing on our public lands,” Androff said.
“As we continue to offer millions of acres of America’s public lands for oil and gas development, it is important that the public have full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place,” he added.
About 90 percent of the wells drilled on federal and Indian lands use hydraulic fracturing. The draft rule included requirements to disclose fracking chemicals, improve well-bore integrity and to tighten protections for groundwater. It’s not expected that those core requirements will change much in the revised draft.
Industry advocates said that, based on their economic evaluation, the initial draft would add more than $250,000 to the cost of each new well, totaling $1.5 billion industry wide annual cost.
“We hope the BLM’s next steps include a thorough cost assessment to balance the regulatory burden with the impacts on jobs and economic growth,” Sgamma said.