Obama unveils long-awaited fracking rules

Obama to announce long-awaited fracking rulesThe Obama administration announced Friday the first major nationwide safety restrictions on hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) in the oil and natural gas industries.

The updated regulations, in the works since 2012, set standards for wells and disposal of wastewater, and will require disclosure of chemicals used. They will apply only to drilling on federal lands, which account for 11% of the natural gas and 5% of the oil the U.S. consumes, according to Interior Department data.

“This rule will move our nation forward as we ensure responsible development while protecting public land resources,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement. “As we continue to offer millions of acres of America’s public lands – your lands – for oil and gas development, it is critical that the public has confidence that robust safety and environmental protections are in place.”

“Washington continues to come out with regulations that make it more complex and complicated to develop American energy,” Politico.com quoted GOP Sen. John Barrasso as saying. The politician, whose home state of Wyoming imposed its own fracking regulations in 2010, added he was “likely to oppose whatever” Interior’s Bureau of Land Management proposes.

The final version of the rules unveiled today is not likely to please environmentalists nor oil industry leaders either. The first group has been asking for extremely harsh restriction, while companies insist they would rather have well-tailored state rules than one-size-fits-all federal mandates.

The controversial drilling technique of injecting water and chemicals deep into shale rock formations to crack open pockets of natural gas and oil has been used for decades. But only in recent years such practice has come under scrutiny as it is now massively used by the U.S. oil and gas industry.

The method has led to a natural-gas boom in several states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas, unlocking also oil reserves not commercially viable in the past. But it has sparked opposition as well, as locals claim the technology may contaminate drinking water and add to air and soil pollution. Fracking companies and other proponents say that not only fracking can be done safely but it also creates jobs for local communities.