Posted By James J. Periconi, Esq. on June 25, 2012
Since our last post regarding the current federal regulations of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (i.e., “fracking”) for extraction of natural gas from shale, there have been several developments on the federal level.
President Obama Issues Executive Order Establishing Interagency Working Group on Fracking
On April 13, 2012, President Obama issued an Executive Order which creates an interagency working group to coordinate policy efforts to support the safe and responsible development of “unconventional” domestic natural gas resources – including fracking. The working groups will include representatives from eight federal agencies, four White House offices, and the EPA, and is tasked with coordinating various federal agency activities, sharing of information, and long-term planning for research and infrastructure development related to shale gas and coalbed methane.
The Executive Order is available here.
EPA Issues Air Pollution Standards for Fracking
On April 18, 2012, EPA issued New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for natural gas fracking operations. These NSPS require that, beginning January 1, 2015, operators must use reduced emissions completion equipment, also known as “green completions,” to capture and treat excess gas. Until then, operators can either use green completions or can flare off (i.e., burn) excess gas produced by the fracking operations.
These NSPS are the result of a consent order in a lawsuit brought by several advocacy groups that alleged that EPA had violated the Clean Air Act by failing to issue NSPS for the oil and natural gas industry.
The NSPS are available here.
EPA Issues Draft Guidance for Fracking Permits When Diesel Fuel is Used
On May 4, 2012, EPA released draft guidance for the permitting of fracking operations that utilize diesel fuels in the fracking fluids. The use of diesel fuels in the fracking process subjects the operation to regulation under EPA’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) program, pursuant to its authority under the Safe Water Drinking Act. This draft guidance defines the types of diesel fuels covered and lists the technical considerations that must be taken into account for UIC permitting.
The draft guidance is available here.
Department of Interior Issues Proposed Rule for Fracking on Federal and Tribal Lands
Also on May 4, 2012, the US Department of Interior (DOI) issued a proposed rule updating its regulations on fracking on federal and tribal lands. If adopted, the rule would do the following:
- Companies would be required to disclose the chemicals used in the fracking process to the public through informational filing pre- and post-drilling;
- Well-bore integrity regulations would strengthened through improved assurances to verify that the fluids used in the fracking process are not escaping into the environment;
- Companies would be required to have a water management plan in place for handling flowback water.
These regulations would only apply to fracking operations on federal and tribal lands.
The proposed rule is available here.