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 plan addresses three issues: disclosure of the contents of fracking fluids, rules on how to dispose of the liquids and standards for constructing the wells themselves. "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 rule will require operators to construct sound wells, and provide certain information about their operations, she said, explaining that the new guidelines came from a four-year process. Although these new rules will not be applicable to fracking 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 the federal guidelines will affect about 32 million acres of land—a portfolio which receives about 5,000 applications for drilling permits each year, officials said.
-- Everett Rosenfeld