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Comment Period Extended for Proposed Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal Lands

Individuals and companies now have until August 23, 2013, to provide comments to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) proposed rule to regulate hydraulic fracturing activities associated with oil and gas production on BLM federal lands, first issued in the Federal Register on May 24, 2013. The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation and 56 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate on Indian lands.

The BLM’s proposed rule includes three main components:

  • Public disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations on Federal and Indian lands;
  • Confirmation that wells used in fracturing operations meet appropriate construction standards so as to improve assurances of well-bore integrity to verify that fluids used during fracturing operations are not contaminating groundwater; and
  • A requirement that operators put appropriate plans in place for managing flowback waters from fracturing operations.

According to the BLM’s June 7, 2013, notice extending the comment period from June 24 to August 23, “Approximately 90 percent of wells drilled on Federal and Indian lands use hydraulic fracturing, but the BLM’s current regulations governing hydraulic fracturing operations on public and Indian lands have been on the books since 1983 and were not written to address modern hydraulic fracturing activities. The revised proposed rule will modernize BLM’s management of hydraulic fracturing operations, and help to establish baseline environmental safeguards for these operations across all public and Indian lands.”