Fracking Rules: Obama Administration Guidelines Don’t Affect Most U.S. Land


As the fracking debate rages on in New York, Barack Obama’s administration hasn’t hidden the fact that it’s pro-fracking, and widely publicized its decision to release environmental guidelines for the practice.

Indeed, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s announcement Tuesday that his department had OKd well drilling in Utah’s Uintah basin suggests that the Prez has warmed greatly to gas.

But a recently released ProPublica report suggests that these rules aren’t all that strong.

On the one hand, drilling companies would have to reveal hydraulic fracturing chemicals and would “be required to test the physical integrity of their wells, and more water would be protected from drilling.” Because the lion’s share of wells fail from cracks in cement and casing, this test could “prevent dangerous leakages.”

On the other hand, these tough rules only apply to a fraction of U.S. fracking activities. From the report:

“Although widely understood as “national” guidelines, the draft rules would in fact only apply to a sliver of the nation’s natural gas supply. That’s because they would apply to mineral rights managed by the Bureau of Land Management, which means areas beneath most BLM and tribal land, but scarcely any U.S. Forest Service, private or state-owned lands — where most drilling occurs. Industry has criticized the proposed rules as too restrictive.”

How small a sliver, you might ask? Well, by ProPublica’s estimates, we’re talking 11 percent of America’s natural gas and 5 percent of its oil. And most of that is in 12 Western states. So, not much. Judging from this map, it doesn’t really look like the mandate would have an impact on New York. Like, at all.

Another big problem with the BLM’s move? The rules are actually more lax than the requirements already in place in some states.