By Benjamin Goad - 06/06/13 02:11 PM EDT
The Obama administration has agreed to slow down the implementation of new oil and gas fracking rules on public lands, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced Thursday.
In testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Jewell said the agency would extend for 60 days a public comment period that has already attracted more than 177,000 submissions.
The Obama administration had hoped to finalize the rule last year but withdrew an early version in January. Interior unveiled a revised version last month.
The proposed rules require energy companies to disclose chemicals that are used in hydraulic fracturing or fracking, a drilling method that has resulted in a U.S. oil and gas production boom but has also raised fears of water and air pollution.
The plan drew criticism, both from industry officials who say the rules are unnecessary and environmental groups who said the revised rule was watered down.
The decision to extend the 30-day comment period, which was set to expire on June 16, comes under pressure from the American Petroleum Institute.
The powerful oil and gas trade group, in a letter to the agency, said the extension was needed because of the rule’s “potential to significantly impact domestic energy production, as well as national, state, and local economies.”
In announcing the longer comment period, Jewell said she is resolved to finalize regulations that have been in the works for years.
“We do need to get on with this regulation,” she told members of the panel.