[author: Jessica John Bowman]
The Bureau of Land Management has proposed a rule intended to regulate the use of hydraulic fracturing on the 756 million subsurface acres of federal and Indian mineral estate overseen by the BLM. The proposed rule, which sets forth a number of reporting, monitoring, and certification requirements, may be found in its entirety on the Department of the Interior’s website.
The key changes set forth in the proposed rule are intended to (1) promote the public disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations on federal lands, (2) ensure that wells used in fracturing operations meet appropriate construction standards, and (3) provide for appropriate management of flowback waters from fracturing operations. To accomplish these goals, the proposed rule requires operators to disclose and describe any fluids used during the fracturing operation. This information would be made available to the public, and may be integrated into an existing website, FracFocus.org. The proposed rule also increases preliminary reporting and approval requirements, obligating operators to obtain BLM approval prior to commencing well stimulation activities, and to provide significant details concerning proposed well stimulation – such as fluid volume and pressure estimates, and engineering design details – prior to commencing operations. Finally, the proposed rule sets forth new requirements for the collection, handling and storage of flowback fluids.
The proposed rule has the potential to impact a vast number of operations across the nation. According to BLM estimates, approximately 90 percent of wells currently drilled on federal and Indian lands utilize hydraulic fracturing and could be affected by the proposed rule. Interested parties are invited to comment on the proposed rule during the 60-day period following the publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register.