As we reported in early May, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced a proposed rule that would regulate the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” on federal and native American lands. A copy of the proposed rule may be found here. The proposed rule would (1) require disclosure to the public of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing on public land and Indian land, (2) strengthen regulations related to well-bore integrity, and (3) address issues related to flowback water. It would apply to approximately 700 million subsurface acres of federal mineral estate and 56 million subsurface acres of Indian mineral estate across the United States.
The public comment period for the proposed rule originally was scheduled to end on July 10. Last week, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced a 60-day extension of the comment period, through September 10. The extension appears in the June 26 Federal Register.
Commenting on the extension, Acting BLM Director Mike Pool said that the additional time would allow greater opportunity for public participation.
As the Obama administration continues to offer millions of acres of America’s public lands for oil and gas development, it is critical that the public have full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place. We’ve been asked to allow more time for comment on the proposed rule and the BLM has determined that additional time was warranted so that all parties had an opportunity to participate.
The public comment period was extended, at least in part, in response to requests received from various industry groups. As an example, the American Petroleum Institute (API), sent a letter to BLM on June 12, stating:
The well stimulation proposed rule is of sufficient complexity to warrant extending the comment period by 90 days so that affected stakeholders can thoroughly review and comment on the proposal in its entirety. Furthermore, the additional time is requested so that industry can effectively review and comment on all of the various federal agency regulatory activities related to oil and gas production that are currently in process. An additional 90 days is reasonable considering the rule has the potential to significantly impact domestic energy production, as well as national, state and local economies.
Similar extension requests were sent by the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) (link to comment letter), America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) (link to comment letter), and the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance (DEPA) (link to comment letter). As this is written, a total of 184 public comments have been received by BLM. All such comments may be found here. Instructions to submit comments may be found here.