The high level of interest in the rule, which is the first update of these Federal oil and gas regulations since the 1980s, prompted the extension.
“Extending the comment period ensures that we’ll have greater input from the public and from key stakeholders, including industry and environmental groups, Indian tribes, as well as other people who have hydraulic fracturing operations in their communities,” said BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze. “This rulemaking process has been open at every step, and today’s announcement underscores that fact.”
The Department of the Interior held its first public forum on hydraulic fracturing in November 2010. Following that meeting and several others with tribal representatives, industry and others, the BLM released its first proposed rules in May 2012. During the comment period that followed, the BLM received more than 177,000 public comments and feedback that helped to inform the updated draft proposal, which was published May 25, 2013. The new proposal includes important safety standards, improves integration with existing state and tribal standards, and increases flexibility for oil and gas developers.
The revised rule supports the Obama Administration’s commitment to an all-of-the-above approach to American energy by expanding domestic oil and gas production in order to make America energy self-reliant, while remaining true to a focus on promoting safe and responsible development on public lands.
Approximately 90 percent of wells drilled on Federal and Indian lands use hydraulic fracturing, but the BLM’s current regulations governing hydraulic fracturing operations on public and Indian lands have been on the books since 1983 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.