Industry groups take aim at Salazar’s fracking suggestion

Oil and gas industry groups took issue with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s suggestion yesterday that companies would prefer a uniform national approach instead of a state-by-state approach when it comes to regulating hydraulic fracturing.

Salazar yesterday defended his department’s impending regulations for hydraulic fracturing on federal lands, saying industry has told him that “they don’t like to deal with a patchwork of regulation” that varies from state to state. He said the Interior Department rules, which wouldn’t apply to non-federal lands, could create a template for states to follow.

The oil and gas industry groups, including the American Petroleum Institute and Independent Petroleum Association of America, said Salazar was off the mark.

“Our member companies support the current state processes for regulation of hydraulic fracturing,” they wrote in a letter to the House Natural Resources Committee.

According to a leaked draft of the rules, the Bureau of Land Management would require companies operating on federal lands to disclose chemicals in their fracturing fluids, impose standards meant to ensure wells can withstand fracturing and require companies to explain how they plan to dispose of flowback water.

But industry groups have attacked the rules, saying they’re redundant with or duplicate what many states already do. Industry groups have argued that the states are also better equipped to regulate natural gas drilling in their areas and that some companies have voluntarily been disclosing fracturing fluid chemicals on the site

“While we plan to continue to press for a FracFocus approach, we want to dispel any suggestions, that there is a need for a new federal framework to address the fracturing chemical disclosure issue or to develop a national well construction model,” the groups said. “Such a framework or model would be counterproductive given the efforts by state governments to tailor regulation to local demands.”

Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes said yesterday the rules, once formally unveiled, would differ from the draft and the department would seek comment on and other state disclosure programs.

Salazar has said he believes fracturing has been done safely in most cases. But he said the regulations could help the oil and gas industry restore confidence among an American public that has concerns that hydraulic fracturing may pollute groundwater and drinking water supplies.

Industry has defended the safety of hydraulic fracturing, where mixtures of water, sand and chemicals are injected underground to break up rock and free up trapped oil and gas.

Oil and Gas Industry Letter