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Interior Dept. Mulling Fracking Rules

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The U.S. Interior Department is weighing in on the growing fracking debate. Considering regulations for natural gas and oil production on federally owned shale lands, the Department is also looking into mandating disclosure of chemicals used and creating water and well standards, said Bloomberg Businessweek

The rules will likely be presented in “a couple of months” and might become final the following year, according to David Hayes, the Interior Department’s deputy secretary, wrote Businessweek. The Department is seeking “full disclosure of the chemicals used in the hydraulic-fracturing process, with necessary provisions related to” trade secrets, said Hayes at a meeting of the Department of Energy’s shale-gas advisory panel, added Businessweek. For instance, to protect against leaks, a key change would be, said Hayes, “Extending existing well-bore integrity standards to the hydraulic-fracturing phase of development” as well as, “extending existing water-management requirements” to discharges when fracturing is completed.

Fracking—also known as hydraulic fracturing—involves shooting a chemical concoction that also contains water and sand, at high speeds into shale rock to fracture those formations and release the gas within. According to Businessweek, fracking is used for most—90%–of the wells drilled on public lands, said Robert Abbey, director of the Department’s Land Management department.

“Oil and natural-gas exploration and development in the U.S. onshore are essential for our nation’s economy and energy security,” Andadarko Petroleum Corporations’ John Christiansen said, wrote Businessweek. “We continue to work openly with the Department of the Interior as it evaluates rules for public lands.” Anadarko has agreed to minimize air pollution in Utah from its gas production activities there and also publicizes the ingredients it uses in its fracking fluids via an online registry, said Christiansen. That website is run by the multi-state-run association, Ground Water Protection Council, and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, a multi-state government panel.

The Department is also looking into if frackers should provide details on fracking fluids prior to or post fracking, said Hayes. “We also want to ensure that any chemicals used comply with all relevant local, state and federal laws,” he added. “So we are considering a certification requirement in that regard,” Businessweek reported.

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