Nearly two years after Wyoming became the first state to regulate high-volume hydraulic fracturing, the federal government is finally taking similar steps to supervise oil and gas drilling on public lands.
Released earlier this month, the proposed rule is now open for public comment. While the regulations it contains are a significant step forward, they’ve disappointed environmentalists and watchdogs who hoped that the Obama administration would lead by example.
Compared to existing state regulations, the federal rule is in the “middle of the pack,” said Bruce Baizel, senior staff attorney at Earthworks, a nonprofit that advocates for responsible oil and gas drilling. “It’s not a model leader but it’s also not stepping back either.”
The proposed rule will require operators to test for leaks, create a plan for managing wastewater and reveal some of the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Regulating these activities will “ensure the health and safety of the land and the public … and raise public confidence in hydraulic fracturing,” Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Megan Crandall told InsideClimate News.
Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs for the industry group Western Energy Alliance, said the BLM regulations will “add more delays and cost onto an already excessively bureaucratic federal process.”
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