Proposed frack rules draw fire - Albuquerque Journal

Proposed frack rules draw fire

The U.S. Department of Interior has proposed new rules for hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells on federal lands, but criticism is coming from environmental advocates as well as industry leaders in New Mexico.

Environmental advocates call the proposal a missed opportunity to step up groundwater protections. Industry leaders say fracking regulations should be the job of the state.

Some members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation, meanwhile, said the federal fracking rules are a necessary step.

The proposed federal rules resemble regulations New Mexico has in place for fracking, the practice of injecting a pressurized mix of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to improve extraction of crude oil or natural gas. About 56 percent of oil and gas development in New Mexico is done on federal lands, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

The federal rules would require oil and gas companies to report through a website many – but not all – of the chemical ingredients included in their fracking fluid. The rules also would require drilling companies to prove the integrity of well bores by sampling to ensure fluid isn’t leaking into neighboring groundwater.

States with regulations stricter than the proposed federal rules would be allowed to enforce state rules instead. Officials with the BLM in New Mexico said Monday that they hadn’t reviewed whether New Mexico’s current fracking rules would be sufficient to meet that threshold.

“BLM had a chance to really be a leader on this, and it sounds like it kind of missed the boat, which is unfortunate,” said state Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, who has pushed legislation to require expanded disclosure rules for all chemicals or ingredients used in each fracking job in New Mexico.

Steve Henke, president of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, called the proposed regulations duplicative of sufficient rules New Mexico already has in place.

“There’s no history of any problems associated with hydraulic fracturing in the state of New Mexico,” Henke said. “I think it’s a solution looking for a problem.”

The proposed rules will be open for public comment for 30 days before the U.S. Department of Interior makes a final determination.

Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said he’s reviewing the proposed rule change.

“In New Mexico, we’ve seen that good oversight and regulation can allow fracking to be used to develop oil and gas resources while protecting our groundwater, but not all states have the same rules that we do,” Heinrich said.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., emphasized the need for disclosure of fracking fluids as provided by the proposed federal regulations.

“Companies should disclose the chemicals they use when drilling wells so nearby landowners and the public are informed. Many states, including New Mexico, already have such disclosure rules,” Udall said.

Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., echoed industry advocates saying the effort to establish federal rules oversteps the federal government’s bounds.

“BLM’s proposed rule on hydraulic fracturing will add new and unnecessary layers of burdensome and excessive regulations to an industry that states have been successfully managing for over 60 years,” Pearce said.

Home » News » New Mexico News » Proposed frack rules draw fire

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