Gov’t: Fracking Chemicals Should be Reported


by Todd Neeley, DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — Energy companies would have to report chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations to extract oil and natural gas on public and tribal lands under a proposed rule released Friday by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.

There are growing concerns in recent years about the way fracking operations might affect water quality in rural areas, including private wells used by farmers for drinking, irrigation and livestock.

Fracking involves injecting water and chemicals at high pressure into rock layers underground as a way to fracture rocks and access previously unreachable natural gas reserves.

The American Farm Bureau Federation has come out in support of additional access for exploration and production of oil and natural gas, including the use of fracking. The National Farmers Union, on the other hand, supports mandatory disclosure of materials used in drilling and fracking.

Groundwater contamination from fracking has become a concern in states like Wyoming and Colorado. In Wyoming, EPA has been investigating alleged chemical contamination from fracking in a case that has drawn concern from environmental groups.

In places like Colorado, some farm and environmental groups are concerned that as fracking expands it will take more water away from farmers in the northeast part of the state. Water used in fracking is not recovered. Colorado has a similar reporting law on the books, that requires energy companies to report the chemicals used.

Currently there is no specific requirement for operators to report chemicals used on federal and Indian lands, according to the Bureau. About 90{fd15d42d1b024b97d6d50958be27cc8145b6addb99e015780abccf2984117bb0} of the wells drilled use fracking. The proposed rule would require public disclosure of chemicals used during fracking after operations are completed.

The proposed rule would apply to BLM-managed lands including 700 million subsurface acres and 56 million subsurface acres of Indian land.

Amy Mall, senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement that the rules are needed as fracking operations expand across the country.

“We need BLM to be a leader when it comes to protecting our lands, water and ultimately our health from fracking pollution, yet several states already have stronger protections in place than what the agency proposed today,” she said. “This is a critical first step, but so much more needs to be done.

“Oil and gas operations are expanding rapidly with new technologies and into new areas, including closer and closer to where families live and children go to school, but federal safeguards have not caught up. And industry does not inspire confidence when it balks at the notion of sharing chemical ingredients upfront.”

American Petroleum Institute Upstream Director Erik Milito said in a statement that regulating hydraulic fracturing should be done at the state level.

“The states have proven time and again that they are the best place for responsible regulation of drilling operations,” he said.

“While it appears constructive changes have been made, we are still reviewing the new proposal to see how the agency addressed the various concerns that we’ve raised. The administration should exercise deference to the robust and comprehensive state regulations that already exist. Energy production on federal lands has a history of driving job creation, and creating significant revenue for the government.

“But this potential could be stifled by a federal regulatory program that duplicates existing state regulations. This could have a chilling effect on investment and jobs.”

Milito said companies that do fracking already provide information about what is used in the process.

“Through the efforts of the industry to promote transparency, companies now voluntarily disclose the contents of fluids on, run by the Groundwater Protection Council,” he said. “The typical fracturing fluid is 90{fd15d42d1b024b97d6d50958be27cc8145b6addb99e015780abccf2984117bb0} water and 9.5{fd15d42d1b024b97d6d50958be27cc8145b6addb99e015780abccf2984117bb0} sand, with the rest being additives to aid well production.”

In the draft guidance companies would be required to verify that fluids used in wells during fracking are not escaping. In addition, oil and gas operators would have to confirm that they have water management plans in place for handling fracturing fluids that flow back to the surface.

Once the proposed rule is published in the federal register, a 60-day public comment period will begin.

View the draft guidance here,


© Copyright 2012 DTN/The Progressive Farmer, A Telvent Brand. All rights reserved.

Posted with DTN Permission by Haylie Shipp


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x