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BLM to Rescind 2015 Hydraulic Fracturing Regulations

On July 25, 2017, the DOI Bureau of Land Management published “Oil and Gas: Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands: Rescission of a 2015 Rule” in the Federal Register. If finalized, the purposed rule would rescind BLM’s 2015 rule regulating hydraulic fracturing on certain public and Indian lands. The 2015 rule required operators to (a) obtain BLM approval prior to conducting hydraulic fracturing operations; (b) submit information regarding the proposed source of water in each proposed hydraulic fracturing application; (c) submit certain information about nearby production wells; (d) conduct cement testing prior to hydraulic fracturing; (e) isolate and protect usable water, in part, by demonstrating 200 feet of cement between the bottom of the closest usable aquifer and the top of the fractured formation; (f) monitor and record annulus pressure during fracturing; (g) submit lists of chemicals (excluding trade secret chemicals) used in the hydraulic fracturing process; and (h) store recovered fluids in above-ground rigid tanks of no more than 500-barrel capacity, with few exceptions. 

“The BLM believes that the 2015 final rule unnecessarily burdens industry with compliance costs and information requirements that are duplicative of regulatory programs of many states and some tribes,” the BLM stated in the proposed rule – echoing arguments by states and industry groups challenging the rule. “Considering state regulatory programs, the sovereignty of tribes to regulate operations on their lands, and the preexisting authorities in other federal regulations, the proposed rescission of the 2015 final rule would not leave hydraulic fracturing operations entirely unregulated.”

The BLM will gather public comments on the proposed rule through September 25, 2017, after which BLM may make revisions to the proposed rule and publish it as final.