The Obama Administration released an updated draft proposal that would establish common sense safety standards for hydraulic fracturing on public and Indian lands.

Following the release of an initial draft proposal in 2012, the Department of the Interior received over 177,000 public comments that helped shape today’s updated draft proposal. The new proposal maintainssafety standards, improves integration with existing state and tribal standards and increases flexibility for oil and gas developers. The updated draft proposal will be subject to a new 30-day public comment period.

Approximately 90 percent of wells drilled on Federal and Indian lands use hydraulic fracturing but the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) current regulations governing hydraulic fracturing operations on public lands are more than 30 years old and were not written to address modern hydraulic fracturing activities. The revised proposed rule will modernize BLM’s management of hydraulic fracturing operations, and help to establish baseline environmental safeguards for these operations across all public and Indian lands.

The updated draft proposal maintains the three main components of the initial proposal: requiring operators to disclose the chemicals they use in fracturing activities on public lands; improving assurances of well-bore integrity to verify that fluids used during fracturing operations are not contaminating groundwater; and confirming that oil and gas operators have a water management plan in place for handling fluids that flow back to the surface.

“As the President has made clear, this administration’s priority is to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production. In line with that goal, we are proposing some commonsense updates that increase safety while also providing flexibility and facilitating coordination with states and tribes,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “As we continue to offer millions of acres of America’s public lands for oil and gas development, it is important that the public has full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place.”  

The Obama Administration has made expansion of domestic oil and gas production a priority, while ensuring that it takes place safely and responsibly. Domestic production from more than 92,000 oil and gas wells on public lands accounts for about 13 percent of the nation’s natural gas production and 5 percent of its oil production. The BLM administers approximately 700 million acres of onshore mineral estate owned by the Federal government and has trust responsibilities for about 56 million acres of Indian lands.

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 public and Indian lands.

“We know from experience that hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling methods can be used safely and effectively, employing many of the best management practices reflected in this draft rule,” said BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze. “Our thorough review of all the comments convinced us that we could maintain a strong level of protection of health, safety, and the environment while allowing for increased flexibility and reduced regulatory duplication.”

The updated draft proposal is here.