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U.S. Interior Department Reveals New Fracking Rules

April 14th, 2015

The Department of the Interior recently released a new set of fracking rules designed to protect endangered water supplies. The fracking rules address how oil and natural gas drilling companies will manage their waste water while drilling on federally-controlled lands. The new rules will affect more than 100,000 current oil and gas wells. Environmental groups have welcomed the new rules, while oil and gas companies have cited how they can inhibit their business plans.

How Fracking Works

The practice of hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as “fracking”, involves the injection of fluids into underground oil and natural gas deposits. The fluids consist of a proprietary mixture of water, sand, and chemicals. The drillers inject the fracking fluids into shale deposits to break up the rock surrounding the oil and gas deposits. Each well uses millions of gallons of fluids injected at high pressures. Fracking procedures also leave thousands of gallons of waste water, which often cannot be cleaned or treated for later reuse.

Fracking Rules Cover Federal Lands

The federal fracking rules cover the wells operating on federal lands. According to the Wall Street Journal, these wells produce five percent of the oil and 11 percent of the natural gas used by American consumers. The new fracking rules do not apply to lands controlled by the individual states or by private entities. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told the New York Times that the new rules were put in place because the current regulations “have not kept pace with the technical complexities” of fracking.

Fracking Rules Force Companies to Reveal “Fracking Cocktails”

The most contentious issue surrounding the new fracking rules is the provision that drillers must reveal the contents of their “fracking cocktails” before receiving their drilling permits. A Scientific American report revealed that some of these “cocktails” can contain as many as 750 ingredients, including methanol, benzene, and other toxic chemicals. Many oil companies consider their fracking liquids as proprietary information and feel that the fracking rules would leave them open to having that information available to their competitors.

Fracking Report Shows Water Usage

The Scientific American report also discussed how the fracking process has resulted in severe environmental damage across several states. The report revealed that “each well requires 7.5 million to 26.5 million liters of water” to conduct fracking operations. In English measurements, that translates to between 2 million and 7 million gallons per well. The report also shows that groundwater sources in West Virginia and Wyoming have become contaminated by waste water from fracking wells.

Oil Companies Complain About Fracking Rules

Representatives of the oil industry have lodged their complaints about the new fracking rules, stating that the rules will inhibit energy production just as the economy starts to recover from a deep recession. Both the Western Energy Alliance and the Independent Petroleum Association of America have filed lawsuits to block the fracking rules. A statement from the IPAA read that the new fracking rules “are the complete opposite of common sense” and that the rules “will threaten America’s economic upturn.”

Source: Water Online

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