National Park Service (NPS) Director Jonathan B. Jarvis asked that the comments the Interior Department agency filed regarding the Bureau of Land Management's [BLM] draft rule on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of oil and gas wells on public and Indian lands be withdrawn because the comments weren't reviewed by upper-level NPS officials and the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Jarvis made the request in a Nov. 12 letter to Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), chairman of the House subcommittee on public lands and environmental regulation. Bishop released the letter on Nov. 26. Jarvis was responding to a Sept. 6 letter in which Bishop expressed concern about the NPS comments on the BLM's proposed fracking rule.
The dispute stemmed from the inclusion of a controversial New York Times' op-ed article [on fracking] in the NPS fracking comments."Citations to peer-reviewed scientific studies should have been referenced to support the technical comments that were submitted. In addition, the comments did not receive appropriate review and were not signed. For these reasons, I have requested that the comments be withdrawn from the record," Jarvis wrote.
"I did not, nor did anyone from [Interior] management, review the comments" prior to their being submitted, Jarvis said. "They are unsigned and were erroneously uploaded to regulations.gov. The handling of these comments was contrary to National Park Service protocol, and the staff that sent out the comments was not clear on the appropriate review procedures."
By submitting the New York Times op-ed piece, Bishop accused the NPS of attempting to pass off "unsubstantiated information" as science on fracking activities. "This thinly veiled attempt to vilify energy production and hydraulic fracturing on our public lands illustrates a shared agenda between the administration and anti-energy special interest groups."
Judging from the tenor and content of the comments that have been filed on the fracking rule, the BLM may have to go back to the drawing board on the draft rule for a third time. "While the revised proposed rule makes several improvements upon the May 2012 original proposed [fracking] rule, many shortcomings remain and the BLM should not finalize the rule as currently proposed," said the American Petroleum Institute, which represents major oil and natural gas producers, as well as other sectors of the industry, in its comments on the second draft rule this summer. The cost burden of the proposed rule and benefit shortfall was cited by producers as the main drawback (see Shale Daily, Aug. 26).
There is one part of the draft rule that producer groups say they support: the reporting of fluids and additives used in fracking operations to the FracFocus website.