BLM proposes to rescind 2015 rule on hydraulic fracturing

By Patrick C. Miller | July 25, 2017

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced Tuesday that it’s proposing to rescind a 2015 rule on hydraulic fracturing as part of President Donald Trump’s goal to reduce federal regulations that hinder economic growth and energy development.

"The rescinding of BLM's hydraulic fracturing rule marks another win for regulatory relief in North Dakota,” said Congressman Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. “This duplicative rule of state regulatory programs would have added more cost and delay to our energy producers with no safety or environmental benefits to show for it.”

BLM made the announcement in the Federal Register, noting that that the rule never went into effect because of pending litigation. The agency’s proposal includes the opportunity for the public to submit comments.

“America’s public lands offer outstanding commercial, recreational, and conservation opportunities, and energy development is one of them,” said Katharine MacGregor, acting assistant secretary for land and minerals management. “Maintaining positive, productive working relationships with our state and tribal partners is a top priority of this administration.  We are committed to working collaboratively with them to ensure the safe and environmentally responsible development of our Nation’s energy resources.” 

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke directed the BLM to review the 2015 final rule as part of Secretary’s Order No. 3349, Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, issued March 29.  During the review, the BLM found that all of the 32 states with federal oil and gas leases have regulations to address hydraulic fracturing. Because the final rule was published, more companies are using databases, such as FracFocus, to disclose the chemical content of hydraulic fracturing fluids.

“Withdrawing the hydraulic fracturing rule continues the drumbeat of the Trump administration improving how the federal government works with states and industry to foster jobs and investment without making sacrifices," Cramer said.

The BLM’s proposal supports administration priorities that require agencies to seek ways to reduce the costs of regulatory compliance and require the secretary to review four specific rules, including the BLM’s 2015 final rule on hydraulic fracturing.

Vincent DeVito, counselor to the Secretary of the Interior for energy policy, said the proposal to rescind the fracking rule signals the administrations flexibility to regulate fracking and a rule-making process that’s open to all members of the public.

“The department has not made any prior determinations,” he said. “We know that being a good business partner includes a commonsense, transparent approach towards regulatory stability, environmental stewardship and growing our energy economy.”

The BLM estimates that about 90 percent of the approximately 2,800 production wells drilled in 2013 on federal and Indian lands used hydraulic fracturing techniques to stimulate production. Public comments on the proposed rescission are due to the BLM by Sept. 25.