March 22, 2015

New Federal Fracking Rule Faces Fight From Industry, Congress

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Anadarko's STIM Center consolidates the fracking operations of four well pads into one.

Dan Boyce

Anadarko's STIM Center consolidates the fracking operations of four well pads into one.

Update: On Thursday March 26th, Wyoming became the first state to challenge the new federal rules to regulate hydraulic fracturing. The Wyoming State Attorney General filed a complaint in federal district court which stated that the rule represents federal overreach by the Bureau of Land Management and is in conflict with the state’s own hydraulic fracturing regulations.


The new regulations require things like the disclosure of chemicals used in fracking and more tests to prove that a well isn’t leaking into underground aquifers. Environmental and public advocacy groups pushed for the rules because of concerns about the effects of fracking, which along with horizontal drilling, has allowed shale production in the US to boom in recent years.

Industry is opposed to federal rules though, saying they unnecessarily duplicate existing state regulations and don’t actually address the fracking process. Just hours after the rule was unveiled, the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance filed suit, arguing those issues, and also that the rules require disclosure of confidential business information. Mark Barron is one of the attorneys suing the government on behalf of those groups. He says the impact of the rules will be felt in states with lots of public land, like Wyoming and Colorado.

“The result of the agency action is likely to further disincentivize operators from choosing public lands for their development projects,” he said.

Industry isn’t the only critic either. Wyoming Congressman Cynthia Lummis, in a press release on behalf of the House’s Western Caucus, slammed the rules. “The federal government is the newcomer in this space, bringing nothing to the table except more red tape and more barriers to energy production on federal land that continues to lag far behind the energy boom on state and private lands,” she said.

But Amber Wilson, with the Wyoming Outdoor Council, says even though some individual states, like Wyoming, have strong regulations, federal rules are necessary.

“Environmental problems stretch across state boundaries, and we have some states that don’t have fracking rules, and so this sort of levels the playing field.”

Wyoming, Colorado and North Dakota are some of the largest producers of oil and natural gas from federal lands. The rules goes into effect in June.