Forty Acres and a Rule: Draft Federal Fracking Regulations Cover Only a Sliver of Land
Sunday, 13 May 2012 12:11 By Lena Groeger, ProPublica | News Analysis

Last week’s media coverage of the Obama administration’s newly-proposed fracking rules focused so heavily on how drilling companies would have to disclose the chemicals they use that it largely overlooked the toughest provisions: Drillers would be required to test the physical integrity of their wells, and more water would be protected from drilling. Since many wells fail because the cement and casings crack, the new tests could prevent dangerous leakages.

One major limitation: Although widely understood as “national” guidelines, the draft rules would in fact only apply to a sliver of the nation’s natural gas supply. That’s because they would apply to mineral rights managed by the Bureau of Land Management, which means areas beneath most BLM and tribal land, but scarcely any U.S. Forest Service, private or state-owned lands – where most drilling occurs. Industry has criticized the proposed rules as too restrictive.

The draft rules would require companies to conduct “mechanical integrity tests.” These include pressure tests to make sure that the well can withstand the highly pressurized fluid used for fracking. Ensuring that wells are properly sealed is considered critical for preventing water and ground contamination.

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