For everyone who was hoping the Obama administration’s proposed new rules for natural gas drilling on public lands would make a difference, the just-released new draft amounts to a big “frack you.”
Federal rules governing fracking on public lands are being updated, ostensibly to help manage the boom that’s polluting America’s groundwater and shaking free vast volumes of cheap natural gas. Environmentalists were disappointed a year ago when the Department of Interior released a fracker-friendly draft of the new rules. But they submitted reams of comments and had hoped that the proposed regulations would be tightened up in this draft.
Instead, the opposite happened.
Bowing to industry pressure and disregarding concerns about environmental and health impacts, the department actually watered down the draft regulations during the past year. The latest proposal gives frackers virtual carte blanche to wreck the environment, and they don’t even need to tell America which chemicals they’re wrecking it with.
Perhaps this should come as little surprise. It’s Obama’s positions on fracking that endear the president to the far right.
Under the draft proposal, frackers won’t be required to tell the public what chemicals they are injecting into their land. They won’t need to demonstrate that all of their wells are safe — just one well in each field will do. Toxic wastewater will be allowed to sit in open pits. And frackers will be allowed to work near homes, schools, and on environmentally sensitive land.
“These rules protect industry, not people,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “They are riddled with gaping holes that endanger clean, safe drinking water supplies for millions of Americans nationwide.” She added that “this draft is a blueprint for business-as-usual industrialization of our landscapes.”
You would imagine that the oil and gas industry would be showering Obama with love and extolling his greatness right now, given that they are getting their way on virtually everything. But you would be wrong. For them, anything resembling regulation is too much regulation. More from the Washington Post:
Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute criticized the department for not simply leaving regulation to state agencies. “While changes to the proposed rule attempt to better acknowledge the state role, BLM has yet to answer the question why BLM is moving forward with these requirements in the first place,” said Erik Milito, API’s director of upstream operations.
In a conference call, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who as a petroleum engineer used hydraulic fracturing while drilling oil and gas wells in the 1970s, called the proposals “common-sense updates” of regulations that “date back to the Sony Walkman and Atari video game.” She called fracking “an essential tool” but said it should not be left to a “patchwork” of state regulations.
For a detailed look at the latest proposal and for a dissection of its environmental shortcomings, head over to Matthew McFeeley’s NRDC blog. The draft rule isn’t final yet — there is a 30-day public comment period. Let’s see if the regulators listen to the people this time.