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Federal Officials Set Fracking Regulations

Officials with the Department of the Interior have released final standards for hydraulic fracturing activities on public and tribal lands. They say the rules will improve safety and help protect water quality.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell says federal well-digging regulations have not kept pace with advances in technology.
 
“Our decades old regulations do not take into account the current technique of hydraulic fracturing which is increasingly complex, coupled with relatively new horizontal drilling technology and larger scale operations that can reach greater depths and higher pressure,” Jewell says. “We need to update our regulations to make sure they can keep up with evolving technologies and innovation by industry. We need to put in place common sense reforms that promote good government, and help define the rules of the road for the industry, and then help protect communities.”
 
After a four year process, officials have created new regulations that affect hydraulic fracking on public and tribal lands.

Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze says protecting water is a key goal of the rule.
 
“This rule puts in place ways to protect what we call useable water,” Kornze says. “First, from the fracking fluid that is forced into the wellbore in great quantities, with much of that returning to the surface. And second, from the eventual oil and gas production that travels up the same wellbore. Down hole we accomplish this by requiring assurances before the hydraulic fracturing begins that cement barriers are in place to restrict the flow of fracking fluids into underground water supply. Above ground we do this by requiring that the fracking fluids that return to the surface go into rigid above ground tanks that are covered or netted, instead of lined pits that are at ground level.”
 
Kornze says the rule requires companies to publicly disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing to the Bureau of Land Management through the website FracFocus. Companies must also submit more detailed information on the geology, depth, and location of preexisting wells.

The new regulations take effect in just under 90 days.