Federal fracking rules due out soon

Rules for hydraulic fracturing on federal land will be made final within weeks, Interior Secretary Sally JewellSally JewellGOP chairmen propose sweeping federal land changes for Utah Interior chief headed to Utah amid divisions over proposed monument Obama weighs big Arctic decision MORE said.

Jewell told reporters Monday that the rules from Interior’s Bureau of Land Management are “very close” and can be expected “in the coming weeks.”

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Other oil and gas industry rules for blowout preventers for offshore drilling Arctic drilling rules will take more time, Jewell said.

The fracking rules would set the first ever standards for using the controversial process on federally-owned land that is leased by oil companies.

As proposed in 2013, the standards would mandate that fracking companies disclose the chemicals they use and take certain steps to ensure that fluids do not reach groundwater and are properly discarded. The oil and gas industry says the rules are unnecessary, and environmentalists say they don’t go far enough.

The White House Office of Management and Budget has been reviewing the rules since August.

Jewell declined to be more specific on the rule’s timing.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (BSEE) proposed blowout preventer standards are expected in the early part of this year, Jewell said.

That rule is one of the major initiatives to come from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Investigators say proper blowout preventer standards could have severely mitigated the effects of the spill.

Jewell was uncertain about the timing of a proposal for BSEE’s special rules for offshore drilling in the Arctic.

“It’s going to take a little bit more time before those Arctic standards are finalized.,” she said.

The rules were spurred in part by Royal Dutch Shell’s botched attempt at drilling an exploration well in the Arctic in late 2012. The rig ran aground after its towing line broke.

Interior won’t have the rules ready for when Shell plans to try more exploration this summer, but Jewell said officials will oversee Shell’s operations more closely this time around.

“Shell indicated recently that they’re going to go forward with their exploration plans the summer, and we will be holding them to the standards that we have held them to before, with upgrades and proof that they can do what they say they do before they go out there,” she said.