Fracking Rules to Include Industry Safety Certification

The Obama administration will require energy companies to certify that they are not endangering local water supplies when using hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas and oil, the Interior Department said.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a congressional hearing today that his agency is working on additional regulations that will lower the risk of water supplies being tainted during hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The drilling technique involves injecting millions of gallons of water, chemicals and sand into subterranean rock formations to free energy resources.

The industry certificates will strengthen the oversight of the Bureau of Land Management, which is sending inspectors to drilling sites to ensure proper well design and waste-water management, David Hayes, Salazar’s deputy, told a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations panel in Washington.

“We are prioritizing inspections to deal with potential high-risk issues,” Hayes said. “That includes ensuring that the well construction is done with the appropriate integrity.” The proposed rule “will require an additional certification by the operators to ensure that they are using the appropriate cementing,” he said.

As natural-gas production in states including Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wyoming gets closer to homes and farms, residents are calling for more stringent state and federal regulation to protect their air and water.

“When people ask where they can live that they will be safe -- you’ve got to find a place where there isn’t any shale underneath,” Susie Beiersdorfer, a geologist, said during a Feb. 27 protest against fracking in Steubenville, Ohio.

Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp., the second-largest U.S. natural-gas producer, and Hess Corp. of New York are seeking well permits in Ohio. Some homeowners and businesses in the state are demanding a ban until fracking is better researched and regulated.

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