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New Rule Sidesteps Fracking’s Gravest Dangers

April 30, 2015

New Rule Sidesteps Fracking’s Gravest Dangers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new federal rule doesn’t go far enough to protect the environment from the dangers of fracking, Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, said today.

On March 20, U.S. Department of Interior officials announced a new rule governing hydraulic fracturing – commonly known as “fracking” – on public and tribal lands. Today, the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining will hold a hearing on the rule.

The rule requires companies to disclose most of the chemicals used in the fracking injection process to a website controlled by industry, and requires most fracking waste fluids to be stored in covered metal containers instead of open pits. This rule applies only to fracking on federal lands, which represents just 11 percent of all fracking in the United States.

“The new standards could hardly be more accommodating to the fracking industry, yet the industry is hyperventilating over a handful of woefully inadequate and incomplete disclosure requirements,” said Slocum. “The new rule barely begins to address the dangers of fracking.”

Here’s what the rule should say, according to Public Citizen:

  • All chemicals should be disclosed prior to injection with no exceptions for proprietary claims, and they should be posted on a website controlled by the federal government, not the fracking industry.
  • Fracking companies should have to certify that injecting chemicals into the ground won’t contaminate the local water supply.
  • Fracking fluids should be recycled. Companies that use them should be required to process and purify the fracking waste fluids.
  • Companies should be required to conduct seismic surveys prior to drilling and injecting wastewater into the ground. Recent studies have linked wastewater wells to earthquakes.
  • Companies should be required to ensure maximum containment of methane leaks at wellheads. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 87 times more polluting than carbon dioxide.
  • Any company fracking on federal land should be prohibited from entering into confidential nondisclosure agreements with any party harmed by the fracking process.

“The proposed regulations fail to address the documented water resource, air quality and pollution concerns as well as other environmental problems associated with fracking,” said Slocum. “The fact that the oil and gas industry is aggressively attacking these benign rules shows just how out of touch with reality the industry’s lobbyists have become.”