Flores bill would call for study before implementing safety rules on fracking
Waco Tribune-Herald | Lowell Brown
August 3, 2012
A bill by U.S. Rep. Bill Flores would further delay proposed new environmental safety rules for hydraulic fracturing on federal land until the government studies their effect on jobs and energy production.
Flores , R-Bryan, a former energy executive, said regulations proposed by the federal Bureau of Land Management are burdensome and would hinder oil and gas production on energy-rich public land.
He also argues they are unnecessary because states already regulate the industry.
The federal rules, proposed in May, would require public disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing on federal and Native American land, strengthen regulations related to well-bore integrity, and address issues related to flowback water, liquid that returns to the surface after fracturing is complete.
In June, the government extended the public comment period by 60 days, to Sept. 10.
Flores’ bill , H.R. 6235, introduced this week, would delay further action until the Interior Department studied the potential effects on energy production and federal royalty revenues.
The bill also would require a report on staffing needed to enforce the rules and potential conflicts with existing state and federal regulations.
“We’re not stopping this,” Flores said. “We’re just saying do a comprehensive study.”
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, involves pumping millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to stimulate wells.
Critics, including some environmental groups, say the practice has been linked to cases of air and water pollution, although industry groups dispute those links.
Some states, including Texas, have passed laws requiring operators to publicly disclose fracking chemicals, although exceptions are sometimes made for trade secrets.
Operators do not have to disclose chemicals used on federal land, where about 90 percent of wells drilled use hydraulic fracturing to boost production, according to the federal land bureau.
Supporters of tighter federal regulations say they are crucial as the Obama administration opens millions of acres of public land for oil and gas development.
Lauren Pagel, policy director for the environmental group Earthworks, said the land bureau’s “common sense” standards would help protect public lands for future generations.
“If oil and gas drilling is being done safely, the industry should have no issue with some basic rules of the road for how oil and gas projects operate on our forests and other public lands,” Pagel said.
The proposal largely would affect Western states, where the land bureau manages most of its 245 million acres, and would have less impact in Texas, Flores said.
He described the proposal as a “federal sledgehammer approach” that failed to account for regional differences in drilling technology.
“The problem is: the BLM rule is overreaching with respect to the way they look at fracking,” Flores said. “They’ve got disclosure rules that don’t rely on the systems that are already built, like (the widely used registry website) FracFocus. They want to reinvent the wheel.”
Flores said he is working with House Republican leaders to include the legislation in a package of energy bills to be considered this fall.