White House reviews federal-land fracking rules

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has started to review new regulations for hydraulic fracturing on federal land, the last step before the rules can be made final.

The rules for the oil and gas drilling process, also known as fracking, were proposed last year after a mid-2012 proposal was pulled back.

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The Obama administration said it plans to unveil the final rules in September. The Interior Department submitted the rules to the OMB earlier this week, but the office did not publicize its review until Friday.

Last year’s proposal would mandate that fracking companies disclose the chemicals they use to break underground shale in the process. They would also have to ensure that the fracking fluids do not escape into groundwater and that the fluids that flow back are properly discarded.

Environmentalists said the rules did not go far enough, but the oil and gas industry said federal rules were not necessary for states that already regulate fracking.

The House passed a bill in November that would prohibit Interior Department rules in states that already regulate the process.

According to the department, about 90 percent of the oil and gas wells on federal land use fracking. The new rules would also apply to land owned by American Indian tribes.

“The administration’s priority is to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production,” the Interior Department said in a statement Friday.

The agency said the rules “include commonsense updates that will increase safety while also providing flexibility and facilitating coordination with states and tribes.”