Hydraulic Fracturing Opinions

By The Bakken Magazine Staff | June 24, 2013

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has released an updated rules draft and issued a comment deadline of Aug. 23. Lynn Helms, director of North Dakota’s Department of Natural Resources, provided an update on the proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations in his monthly press conference, in June. The BLM issued a rules draft last year, but after receiving 170,000 comments, it withdrew the rules draft. 

With the new draft issued, Helms offered three key elements that he urged oil and gas industry stakeholders to comment on. First, he pointed out, the draft’s rules are about state’s right. The revised rule allows an operator to get a statewide exemption if the state has adopted hydraulic fracturing rules that include chemical disclosure, well construction and well bore pressure testing, Helms said. “The proposal should be expanded to allow the state to apply for an exemption from the rule.” 

Second, the revised rule allows for one well to satisfy the pre-fracturing approval requirements for an entire field. For Helms, that isn’t enough. “The proposal should be expanded to allow a type well to cover an entire county or basin if the geology is substantially similar,” he said. 

Third, Helms said that he believes the requirement to submit water source and recovered fluid disposal methods encroach on state jurisdiction over waters of the state and over underground injection control through the primacy agreement between the state and the U.S. EPA. 

The BLM states that roughly 90 percent of wells drilled on federal and Indian lands use hydraulic fracturing, but the current regulations governing the completion practice have been in use since 1983 and were not written to address modern hydraulic fracturing activities. 

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., has also offered his opinion on the BLM’s role in oil and gas retrieval. Along with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Hoeven has authored the BLM Streamlining Act that would help streamline oil and gas permitting on federal lands in western N.D. The bill would allow the Miles City, Mont.-based BLM office to approve permits in western North Dakota.