Quantcast

FRACKING PUBLIC LANDS: Is the BLM Bowing to Industry Pressure on New Fracking Rules?

Energy

Natural Resources Defense Council

By Briana Mordick

Last year the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a draft rule for well stimulation (including hydraulic fracturing) under federal leases. The original proposal included limited new rules for chemical disclosure, mechanical integrity and waste water handling.

After it received extensive public comment, the BLM announced it would be going back to the drawing board and developing a new draft for public comment. This new draft was recently leaked to the press. If it’s legitimate, it appears that the BLM has further weakened what was an already weak rule.

The leaked draft contains a number of troubling revisions:

  • Replacement of the term “well stimulation” with “hydraulic fracturing.” Proposed rules in the previous version applied to “well stimulation” operations, which included hydraulic fracturing and other techniques like “acidizing,” where the industry injects large quantities of acid down a well. The new version only covers hydraulic fracturing.

    • Why do we care? Acidizing can present some of the same risks as hydraulic fracturing and should be regulated similarly. Operators in the Monterey Shale in CA, for example, have experimented with massive acidizing jobs using an extremely hazardous acid called hydrofluoric acid.[i] This activity wouldn’t be regulated under the revised rules.

  • The results of tools that are used to tell how effectively drinking water is isolated, called cement evaluation logs, don’t have to be submitted until after hydraulic fracturing is performed. Also, the results from one well can be used as a proxy for multiple wells. Under the previous version, operators would have had to submit unique results for each well before fracturing in order to get approval to frack.

    • Why do we care? The whole point of cement evaluation logs is to ensure drinking water is protected before fracturing begins. If drinking water isn’t properly isolated, the well needs to be fixed before fracturing, but the BLM may not know if there’s a problem until after fracturing has happened—or they may not know at all, if the results submitted are for a different well.

  • In the previous version, operators had to submit unique information for each well to get permission to frack—things like the depth at which fracturing will occur, where the water used for fracturing will come from, how much water, how far the fractures are expected to grow, etc. In the revised version, they can submit one packet of generic information and get multiple permits.

    • Why do we care? Each fracturing operation is unique and regulators can’t determine if the design is safe and appropriate using generic information.

  • See a blog from my colleague, Matt McFeeley, on how the BLM is gutting chemical disclosure requirements.

Furthermore, it appears that the BLM is also failing to make any additional improvements recommended by the Natural Resources Defense Council and a coalition of other environmental groups. These improvements are necessary to address the full range of environmental and human health risks associated with well stimulation, and include things like setbacks, baseline water testing, and well construction.

Time will tell whether these leaked rules are legitimate. Will the BLM give the industry yet another lollipop to appease their latest temper tantrum or will they fulfill their responsibility to protect our shared public lands?

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

[i] Rowe, Greg, R. Hurkmans, and Norman Jones. "Unlocking the Monterey Shale Potential at Elk Hills: A Case Study." Paper SPE 86993 presented at the SPE International Thermal Operations and Heavy oil Symposium and Western Regional Meeting, Bakersfield, California. 2004.

——–

Click here to sign a petition to tell the Bureau of Land Management to issue strong rules for federal fracking leases on public lands.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A dead sea lion on the beach at Border Field State Park, near the international border wall between San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico. Sherry Smith / iStock / Getty Images

While Trump's border wall has yet to be completed, the threat it poses to pollinators is already felt, according to the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, as reported by Transmission & Distribution World.

Read More Show Less
People crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on July 20, 2017 in New York City sought to shield themselves from the sun as the temperature reached 93 degrees. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

by Jordan Davidson

Taking action to stop the mercury from rising is a matter of life and death in the U.S., according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Salmon fry before being released just outside San Francisco Bay. Jim Wilson / The New York Times / Redux

By Alisa Opar

For Chinook salmon, the urge to return home and spawn isn't just strong — it's imperative. And for the first time in more than 65 years, at least 23 fish that migrated as juveniles from California's San Joaquin River and into the Pacific Ocean have heeded that call and returned as adults during the annual spring run.

Read More Show Less
AnnaPustynnikova / iStock / Getty Images

By Kerri-Ann Jennings, MS, RD

Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms worldwide.

Read More Show Less
Protesters hold a banner and a placard while blocking off the road during a protest against Air pollution in London. Ryan Ashcroft / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Dozens of students, parents, teachers and professionals joined a Friday protest organized by Extinction Rebellion that temporarily stalled morning rush-hour traffic in London's southeasten borough of Lewisham to push politicians to more boldly address dangerous air pollution across the city.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Moment / Getty Images

By Bridget Shirvell

On a farm in upstate New York, a cheese brand is turning millions of pounds of food scraps into electricity needed to power its on-site businesses. Founded by eight families, each with their own dairy farms, Craigs Creamery doesn't just produce various types of cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss and Muenster cheeses, sold in chunks, slices, shreds and snack bars; they're also committed to becoming a zero-waste operation.

Read More Show Less
Coal ash has contaminated the Vermilion River in Illinois. Eco-Justice Collaborative / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Jessica A. Knoblauch

Summers in the Midwest are great for outdoor activities like growing your garden or cooling off in one of the area's many lakes and streams. But some waters aren't as clean as they should be.

That's in part because coal companies have long buried toxic waste known as coal ash near many of the Midwest's iconic waterways, including Lake Michigan. Though coal ash dumps can leak harmful chemicals like arsenic and cadmium into nearby waters, regulators have done little to address these toxic sites. As a result, the Midwest is now littered with coal ash dumps, with Illinois containing the most leaking sites in the country.

Read More Show Less

picture-alliance / AP Photo / NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center

The Group of 20 major economies agreed a deal to reduce marine pollution at a meeting of their environment ministers on Sunday in Karuizawa, Japan.

Read More Show Less