BLM head Sally Jewell says old regulations were behind the times

Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell Source: DOI

Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell Source: DOI

U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl of Wyoming granted a request by Colorado, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming to temporarily delay new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regulations today

while the court decides if they are legal, reports the Denver Post. The new BLM regulations would have created a number of new requirements for companies using hydraulic fracturing on federal or tribal lands, including:

  • Submitting detailed information about the proposed operation, including wellbore geology, the location of faults and fractures, the depths of all usable water, estimated volume of fluid to be used, and estimated direction and length of fractures, to the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) with the APD or a Sundry Notice and Report on Wells (Form 3160-5) as a Notice of Intent (NOI) to hydraulically fracture an existing well;
  • Designing and implementing a casing and cementing program that follows best practices and meets performance standards to protect and isolate usable water, defined generally as those waters containing less than 10,000 parts per million of total dissolved solids;
  • Monitoring cementing operations during well construction;
  • Taking remedial action if there are indications of inadequate cementing, and demonstrate to the BLM that the remedial action was successful;
  • Performing a successful mechanical integrity test prior to the hydraulic fracturing operation;
  • Monitoring annulus pressure during a hydraulic fracturing operation;
  • Managing recovered fluids in rigid enclosed, covered or netted and screened above-ground storage tanks, with very limited exceptions that must be approved on a case-by-case basis;
  • Disclosing the chemicals used to the BLM and the public, with limited exceptions for material demonstrated through affidavit to be trade secrets;
  • Providing documentation of all of the above actions to the BLM.

When the final rule was released on March 20, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said that the purpose of the new regulations was to bring the rules around use of public lands up to date. “Many of the regulations on the books at the Interior Department have not kept pace with advances in technology and modern drilling methods,” she said. Secretary Jewell went on to say that the new rule was hoped to also protect the nation’s groundwater and ensure responsible development while protecting public land resources.

On June 4, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its draft assessment on the effects of hydraulic fracturing on groundwater, finding that “hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources.”

The states that requested Judge Skavdahl temporarily block the new BLM regulations said they were concerned that the federal regulations infringed on their rights to regulate oil and gas operations. Colorado’s Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said the state is pleased the court agreed to grant a stay.

“We believe these rules intrude on Colorado’s sovereign right to responsibly and safely regulate the oil and gas industry within our borders,” Coffman said.

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