Gas Well Inspections to Be Required After Fracking, Salazar Says

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

Natural-gas drillers will be required by U.S. rules to inspect their wells after hydraulic fracturing on public land to ensure the safety of drinking-water supplies, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.

The agency in coming weeks will propose standards under which companies such as Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. must disclose the chemicals in the mixture injected underground to free trapped gas, demonstrate the well isn’t leaking and check the work after fracking, Salazar said today in a speech to the City Club of Cleveland.

“To me, those rules are common sense,” Salazar said. “You have some people say that this will kill the natural gas-industry -- that’s very far from the truth.”

Republicans in Congress and energy trade groups such as the American Petroleum Institute oppose the agency’s rules, saying compliance will increase production costs and slow the development of the resources.

Interior also will require that drilling on federal land meet guidelines for handling fracking water that returns to the surface after being injected into the rock to make sure streams aren’t contaminated. Fracking opponents say the process leads to tainted water and may cause cancer among people living near the wells.

In fracking, companies blast shale-rock formations with water, sand and chemicals under high pressure thousands of feet underground to break up shale-rock formations and release trapped gas. The process is used in more than 90 percent of natural-gas wells drilled on federal land, Salazar said.

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