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Interior to Call for Disclosure of Frack Chemicals on Public Lands

The U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would require companies drilling on public lands to disclose the chemicals used in their hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations, according to a draft of proposed BLM regulations acquired by NGI's Shale Daily.

At least 30 days before well stimulation begins, companies would be required to submit information about the operations, including a report "that discloses all additives of the proposed stimulation fluid by additive trade name and purpose," and the "complete chemical makeup of all materials used in the proposed stimulation fluid," according to the draft regulations.

"We believe natural gas is a significant part of our energy portfolio for the future, but as we have now developed a 100-year supply of natural gas in the continental United States, we need to make sure that that natural gas is being developed in a way that's not going to destroy our environment that we care so much about," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said during a webcast Friday afternoon.

"In the history of fracking we don't know instances where fracking has contaminated water, but we do know that there are ways in which fracking could be a problem. So what we want to do is we want to make sure that there is disclosure because it's important that people understand what is being injected into the underground. There's no reason for oil and gas companies to keep that secret, so the president in the State of the Union called for disclosure of those materials."

In his State of the Union speech last month, President Obama reiterated the administration's position for requiring disclosure of chemicals used in fracking, saying "America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk" (see Shale Daily, Jan. 26).

According to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA), the draft regulations fly in the face of Obama's call for development of domestic natural gas and oil as part of "an all-out, all-of-the-above" energy strategy.

"This draft document reveals that the Obama administration is planning to impose new job-destroying regulations on the use of hydraulic fracturing technology on federal lands that will add significant barriers to the production of natural gas -- one of America's most promising and abundant natural resources," Hastings said.

The draft regulations -- and a draft proposal that would cut in half the public lands that could be made available in three western states for early research and development of oil shale and tar sands resources, which was also released Friday (see related story) -- "appear to run counter to President Obama's recent State of the Union address, in which he pledged to 'take every possible action' to increase production on public lands," said Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research.

"This latest tranche of regulations demonstrates just how willing the president is to kill the goose that's laying the golden egg," Pyle said.

The natural gas industry has helped build public trust by disclosing the chemicals used in fracking, according to a recent report by the American Gas Association (AGA). Operators conducting fracking operations voluntarily enter chemical data into the public website www.fracfocus.org, and states including Texas (see Shale Daily, Dec. 14, 2011), Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Arkansas (see Shale Daily, Dec. 10, 2010) have their own frack fluid disclosure requirements.

BLM isn't the only U.S. government agency considering new fracking rules. In November the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) outlined a 190-page plan for its study of the potential impacts of fracking (see Shale Daily, Nov. 4, 2011).

There have been objections to the federal agencies' shale efforts. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) (see Shale Daily, Nov. 2, 2011) and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (see Shale Daily, Oct. 27, 2011) are among those who have said regulation of shale gas and related issues -- including the use of fracking -- should be left to state officials.

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