Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and several other House Democrats today submitted comments critiquing the Department of Interior's proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing extraction methods used on federal lands, calling the rules an important step forward, but still missing several key elements. This is the first update in regulations in more than thirty years for hydraulic fracturing, and comes at a time when the technique is now being used in an estimated 90 percent or more of all wells drilled on taxpayer-owned land.
In a letter to Secretary Ken Salazar, submitted on the final day for public input, Rep Markey and several other House Democrats make suggestions for improvements to the proposed rule in several key areas, including:
--Requiring companies to additionally disclose the chemicals and volume used before the well is hydraulically fractured, instead of only after the fact. The requirement of prior disclosure was dropped from a previous version of the rule.
--Reassessing the ability of the web-based FracFocus system to serve as the platform for public disclosure of chemicals, water use, and other factors.
--Stopping the use of open-pit storage of wastewater from fracturing, which has a higher risk of leaks and spills and exposes hazardous chemicals to the air, instead of storing wastewater in closed systems.
--Setting strict standards for well design and construction, especially following disasters like the BP oil spill, where corners were cut in the design and construction of the well.
--Delineating proper distance requirements from schools and other populated areas from fractured wells, especially given air pollution concerns.
Rep. Markey was joined in the letter by Democratic Reps. Rush Holt (N.J.), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (C.M.), Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), Grace Napolitano (Calif.) and Paul Tonko (N.Y.).
"These rules will serve as an important start to what we hope will be broader, comprehensive energy development policies that will embrace best practices for the management of our natural resources," writes Rep. Markey, the Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee, and his colleagues. "DOI's proposed rule plays a vastly important role in putting in place basic safety protections and ensuring that the development of oil and gas does not come at the detriment of public health and safety or the environment."