The Obama administration may be softening its stance on fracking.The Interior Department has just released long-awaited revisions to proposed rules governing fracking on federal land. The new rules are meant to replace a thirty-year-old set of regulations that are now hopelessly out of step with current technology.The administration’s first round of proposed updates last year disappointed natural gas producers, who cited concerns that the rules would be too restrictive and would force companies to disclose trade secrets. The latest revisions suggest that the administration has been listening to the industry’s complaints—or at least some of them.Most notably, the revised regulations would reduce the number of integrity tests that drillers would need to perform on their wells, would allow companies to comply with state regulations rather than federal ones, and would not require energy companies to disclose all the chemicals they use in fracking to the general public. This latter point particularly galled the greens.Energy companies are still unhappy with
the rules, preferring to leave regulations like these up to the states. But the greens are the ones who are really sounding alarm bells now that the administration appears to be backing down on its resistance to fracking. The NYT quotes
one thoroughly miffed public interest lawyer:
“Comparing today’s rule governing fracking on public lands with the one proposed a year earlier, it is clear what happened: the Bureau of Land Management caved to the wealthy and powerful oil and gas industry and left the public to fend for itself,” said Jessica Ennis, legislative representative for Earthjustice.
The revised rule changes fall far short of a full endorsement of fracking on the part of the Obama administration, but at the very least it’s a sign that the President is turning his back on the more rabid greens that make up his base. Obama has long been torn between a desire to pursue an “all of the above” energy policy and his need to placate the greens. The former urge may finally be winning out, if the comments of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell are any indication:
Anticipating criticism from environmental advocates, [Jewell] said: “I know there are those who say fracking is dangerous and should be curtailed, full stop. That ignores the reality that it has been done for decades and has the potential for developing significant domestic resources and strengthening our economy and will be done for decades to come.”
We’re glad to hear this. Hopefully, it’s a sign of more good things to come.
[Oil rig image courtesy of Shutterstock