Fracking Rules for Wells, Water Weighed for U.S.-Owned Land

The U.S. Interior Department is considering regulations for production of natural gas and oil from shale on federal lands, including required disclosure of the chemicals used and standards for water and wells.

The rules will probably be proposed in “a couple of months” and become final about a year later, David Hayes, the Interior Department’s deputy secretary, said today.

The department plans to seek “full disclosure of the chemicals used in the hydraulic-fracturing process, with necessary provisions related to” trade secrets, Hayes said during a meeting of the Department of Energy’s shale-gas advisory panel.

“Extending existing well-bore integrity standards to the hydraulic-fracturing phase of development” to protect against leaks will also be a focus of the proposed rules, Hayes said, as well as “extending existing water-management requirements” to discharges after fracturing is finished.

In fracturing, or fracking, companies inject water, sand and chemicals under high pressure thousands of feet underground to break up shale-rock formations and release the gas trapped there. The technique is used for more than 90 percent of wells drilled on public lands, Robert Abbey, director of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, said on Aug. 18.

Among companies producing natural gas on U.S. acreage is Anadarko Petroleum Corp. of The Woodlands, Texas, which agreed to reduce air pollution from production on public lands in Utah, Hayes said today.

Public Ingredients

“Oil and natural-gas exploration and development in the U.S. onshore are essential for our nation’s economy and energy security,” Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen said today in an e-mail. “We continue to work openly with the Department of the Interior as it evaluates rules for public lands.”

The company makes public the ingredients used in its hydraulic-fracturing fluids at a voluntary online registry, Christiansen said. The website is operated by the Ground Water Protection Council, an association of state agencies, and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, a multistate government panel. Both are based in Oklahoma City.

The department is evaluating whether producers should provide information about fracking fluids before starting or after operations are conducted, Hayes said.

“We also want to ensure that any chemicals used comply with all relevant local, state and federal laws,” he said. “So we are considering a certification requirement in that regard.”

The Energy Department’s panel was established to respond to concerns that fracking may pollute air and drinking water. Natural-gas companies risk causing serious environmental damage from hydraulic fracturing unless they commit to the best engineering practices, the task force, led by former CIA Director John Deutch, said in August.

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