Fracking Rule is a Bad Start for New Interior Secretary

May 16, 2013

A natural gas well being drilled in the Eagle Ford shale in Karnes County, TX. The Bureau of Land Management issued new draft rules on hydraulic fracturing on federal lands. Photographer: Eddie Seal/Bloomberg.

I was hoping Interior Secretary Sally Jewell would pass her first test on fully embracing America’s energy abundance. Unfortunately with the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) new draft rule on hydraulic fracturing on federal lands, she failed. As Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy put it, “BLM’s rule is a solution in search of a problem.” “States are much better suited to regulate hydraulic fracturing and have done an effective job.”

Harbert noted that BLM’s second try at a draft rule acknowledges that it duplicates state regulatory efforts. The text reads:

[S]ome states…have issued their own regulations addressing disclosures and oversight for oil and gas drilling operations.

Operators with leases on Federal lands must comply with both BLM’s regulations and with State operating requirements, including State permitting and notice requirements to the extent they do not conflict with BLM regulations.

In a statement, Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) President and CEO Barry Russell, echoed Harbert:

Unfortunately, the rule solves no existing problem, but creates additional burdens for independent oil and natural gas producers and state regulators. If the Department of Interior believes there are gaps in state regulations of oil and natural gas, they should work with the states to implement changes rather than imposing a costly and burdensome rule on independent producers.

This rule means more red tape and less energy development. It won’t reverse the trend of falling oil and natural gas production on federal lands, and it won’t shorten the average span of 307 days it takes to get an oil and gas drilling permit. In fact, this rule is likely to exacerbate both of these.

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