The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) just released a draft [PDF] of its new rules for hydraulic fracturing on public lands. These rules were last revised in 1988, and they’re being updated to deal with the current fracking boom (the BLM says 90 percent of new wells going in on public land are using fracking). The rule update is also meant to show some smidgen of federal leadership on questions like “Should natural gas companies reveal what’s in fracking fluid?” and “How are we going to at least try and prevent this stuff from contaminating the water?”

The BLM’s answers right now are:

  • Yes, companies have to share what’s in fracking fluid, but only after they pour it into the ground.
  • We’re going to require some tests to make sure the well is pretty solid. But not any tests the industry wasn’t using already.

On a press call announcing the rules, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and BLM Director Robert Abbey emphasized that they wanted the BLM rules to be consistent with state rules and easy for companies to comply with by adding a little more info to forms they’re filing already.

The disclosure regulations, for instance, are “consistent with what Colorado’s already done.” And the BLM is talking to the Ground Water Protection Council about linking required disclosure info to FracFocus, which already makes available information about fracking chemicals that companies have voluntarily disclosed.

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These new rules are better than the outdated 1980s ones. But they’re not ideal. NRDC, for instance, sent out a statement saying that “so much more needs to be done” and that “we hope the agency will strengthen this proposal before it becomes final.”

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