Bad news, water lovers: You’re going to need to wait until at least 2013 before you know if you’re drinking fracking fluid.

Last May, the Department of the Interior, America’s most introspective governmental bureau, announced proposed regulations for the fracking process. The proposal was … not very strong. Companies would have to provide information on chemicals used in the process, but only after the fact.

department of interior
ncindc
The fast-acting Department of the Interior.

Nonetheless, the fracking industry was hella mad, because if you government pencil-necks say companies have to worry about where chemicals end up or, worse, have to tell everyone what chemicals they use, those companies will have to fire everyone and probably resort to a life of crime. And besides, they noted, the existing rules states have are already so oppressive.

But Interior was all, too bad, guys. We’re going to crack down! By the end of the year, you watch, we’ll have final rules.

And, lo, The Hill reports:

The Interior Department no longer plans to finalize rules this year that will impose new controls on the controversial oil-and-gas development method called hydraulic fracturing, a spokesman said.

“In order to ensure that the 170,000 comments received are properly analyzed, the Bureau of Land Management expects action on the [hydraulic fracturing] proposal in the new year,” Interior spokesman Blake Androff said.

So that’s that.

Incidentally, I am not clear why it will take so long to go through those 170,000 comments. The breakdown is almost certainly as follows.

  • 152,000 comments are in support of fracking regulations, but call for them to be tighter than proposed. All 152,000 share 82 percent of the same language; 76,000 include the words “Sierra Club” and 76,000 include the abbreviation “NRDC.” 98.6 percent of them originated from the states of California or New York.
  • 18,000 comments oppose any regulation and are from “regular Joes,” including people named Tex Rillerson, Won Jotson, and, for some reason, Bon Jaynor. In those 18,000 comments, the word “jobs” appears 269,000 times.

So once they’ve sorted those comments out into two piles, measured the height of each, and applied some magic calculus to the result, Interior will announce final rules. Sometime. Maybe 2013. We’ll see.

In the meantime, drink up.