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New Fracking Rules Show US Bowing to Industry

Regulations go from minimal to 'harebrained' as BLM proposes fracker handout

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management released new draft rules for fracking on public lands Thursday afternoon that would vastly weaken safeguards against the highly toxic gas extraction process, which has already done untold damage to public water, land and air.

CREDO Action & New Yorkers Against Fracking Protest Gov. Cuomo's Plan to Frack New York (Photo via Flickr / Adam Welz for CREDO Action. Creative Commons License) "Comparing today’s rule governing fracking on public lands with the one proposed a year earlier, it is clear what happened: the [BLM] caved to the wealthy and powerful oil and gas industry and left the public to fend for itself," Legislative Representative for Earthjustice Jessica Ennis stated.

As Earthjustice reports, the new version "eliminates protections included in the version proposed last year and fails to include safeguards demanded by environmental and public health advocates."

Earthjustice lists some of the worst features of the new fracking proposal:

  • The proposed rules do not require an evaluation of the integrity of cement barriers in individual wells—the critical barrier between toxic fracking chemicals and groundwater—instead allowing oil and gas companies to test one well and allow those results to guide the development of other similar wells.
  • The updated proposal does not require fracking companies to disclose chemicals before they are pumped into the ground—a critical measure that would give nearby communities time to test and monitor water supplies for any fracking-related water pollution.

"It only takes one failed cement barrier to poison an aquifer," Ennis added. "The BLM should be doing everything it can to protect drinking water. Instead it is trying out a harebrained cement-testing method on our precious public lands."

Oil and gas companies already lease vast swathes of public land and in turn endanger the public health of millions of Americans. According to NRDC, gas lease sites on public lands together already equal the size of the entire state of Florida.

"This includes places that supply drinking water for millions of Americans, including private wells (when the federal government owns mineral rights below private property), as well large municipal drinking water supplies, including all of Washington, D.C., Denver, and parts of California’s Monterey, Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties," the NRDC writes today.

Earlier this week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that oil and gas production from fracking in the U.S. and tar sands production in Canada is surging—sending "shockwaves" throughout the world.

"The technology that unlocked the bonanza in places like North Dakota can and will be applied elsewhere, potentially leading to a broad reassessment of reserves," the IEA stated on fracking.

The velocity and volume of the fracking industry combined with this Thursday's proposed slashing of fracking safety regulations could have catastrophic impacts on public health.

"These rules protect industry, not people. They are riddled with gaping holes that endanger clean, safe drinking water supplies for millions of Americans nationwide." said NRDC President Frances Beinecke.

"Our public lands—and the people who live near them—deserve the highest level of protection." Ennis added. "Today’s rule could have set the gold standard. Instead the BLM is settling for shoddy protections peddled by the oil and gas industry."

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