US tightens rules for disclosure of chemicals in hydraulic fracturing


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

The Obama administration said Friday it is requiring companies that drill for oil and natural gas on federal lands to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, the first major federal regulation of the controversial drilling technique that has sparked an ongoing boom in natural- gas production but raised widespread concerns about possible groundwater contamination.

A rule to take effect in June also updates requirements for well construction and disposal of water and other fluids used in fracking, as the drilling method is more commonly known.

The rule has been under consideration for more than three years, drawing criticism from the oil and gas industry and environmental groups alike. The industry fears federal regulation could duplicate efforts by states and hinder the drilling boom, while some environmental groups worry that lenient rules could allow unsafe drilling techniques to pollute groundwater.

Reaction to the rule was immediate. An industry group announced it was filing a lawsuit to block the regulation, and the Republican chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee announced legislation to keep fracking regulations under state management.

The final rule hews closely to a draft that has lingered since the Obama administration proposed it in May 2013. The rule relies on an online database used by at least 16 states to track the chemicals used in fracking operations. The website, FracFocus.org, was formed by industry and intergovernmental groups in 2011 and allows users to gather well-specific data on tens of thousands of drilling sites across the country.

Companies will have to disclose the chemicals they use within 30 days of the fracking operation.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the rule will allow for continued responsible development of federal oil and gas resources on millions of acres of public lands while assuring the public that “transparent and effective safety and environmental protections are in place.”

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