The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) proposed rule to require companies to publicly disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations on federal and Indian lands would duplicate regulations already in place in states where BLM lands are located, according to several comments filed with the agency over the past six weeks.

"In our view, BLM lacks the knowledge, experience and judgement on cost-effective hydraulic fracturing or well stimulation best practices when compared with the states," Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA) said in documents filed with BLM. "In fact, existing BLM permitting processes already suffer from extraordinary delay. It will take unnecessary time and resources to bring the federal bureaucracy up to current state levels of technical proficiency.

"The implementation of these unjustified, extraordinary and costly technical requirements by unqualified personnel spells trouble for timely and cost-effective permitting processes and ultimately exploration, development and production of natural gas and oil on federal lands."

The proposed rule would discourage exploration and production on federal lands, and the flood of data that it would require companies to submit to BLM would likely overwhelm the agency, according to many of the 267 comments that were filed through Wednesday. BLM apparently was having trouble just processing the proposed rule. It recently extended the comment period beyond the July 10 end date.

"The time it takes for BLM to process a permit has increased over the past three years. Imposing additional permit tasks will only further delay the process," according to the North Dakota Industrial Commission.

Exxon Mobil Corp. said in its filing that the Department of Interior should eliminate "duplicative requirements" by utilizing existing state regulatory processes related to fracking and other oil and gas operations. "In oil and gas producing states, hydraulic fracturing regulations addressing the three focus areas of the BLM proposed regulation (well construction, water protection and chemical disclosure) are already in place and have to be followed on federal lands," Exxon said. "It is recommended that the proposed regulation be amended so that the new BLM regulation would apply only where states do not have sufficient hydraulic fracturing regulations."

The proposed regulation would require operators to obtain one approval to drill a well, a second approval to stimulate the well and a third approval of the cement bond log before stimulating a well. Such a multiple-step approval process "would be a substantial disincentive to the drilling of wells and thus economic development," according to Exxon.

Native Americans have said they were unable to add input in BLM's negotiations on the proposed rules and claim that the rules could impede their ability to develop their energy resources. In its current form, BLM's proposed rule is "unacceptable," the Southern Ute Indian Tribe in its filing.

"Delays in permitting processes already present a major obstacle for our tribe and the implementation of the proposed rule will undoubtedly increase this challenge and force operators to invest in areas not subject to federal regulations."

In February BLM proposed requiring companies that drill on public and Native American lands to disclose the chemicals used in fracking operations, including their formulation (see Daily GPI, Feb. 6). The agency subsequently backtracked slightly, saying companies would only have to disclose the information after operations have been completed (see Daily GPI, May 7). On Wednesday BLM extended until Sept. 10 the comment period for the proposed rule (see Daily GPI, July 12).

The Western Energy Alliance has said BLM's plans would cost taxpayers $1.499-1.615 billion annually.

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