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'Redundant' rule adds to state frack regulations

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A proposed rule that will require companies to disclose chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing on public and Indian lands should give the public peace of mind. The oil industry believes it is just another redundant rule stacked on top of state regulations.

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Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced Friday that the Bureau of Land Management will publish the rule and seek public comment for a 60-day period, according to the press release.

Approximately 90 percent of the wells drilled on federal and Indian lands use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique used to extract oil and gas, according to the release. The rule will give the public confidence that what is being used on these lands is safe, BLM spokeswoman Megan Crandall said.

"I think we are very pleased to see that this rule not only through the disclosure but its requirements for well-born integrity, as well as appropriate handling for frack water, really stands to increase that confidence," she said.

The BLM North Dakota Field Office manages about 58,000 acres of public land in North Dakota and approximately 1,700 oil and gas leases.

The rule piles up on top of state laws already in place, including fracking rules that were put into effect in North Dakota by the state Oil and Gas Division April 1 in Bismarck, said Ron Ness, North Dakota Petroleum Council president.

The North Dakota Oil and Gas Division requires companies to disclose chemicals used while fracking, and the companies in the state don't seem to have a problem releasing that information, said Rep. Shirley Meyer, D-Dickinson.

Federal land is under a different entity, but Meyer thinks the BLM could call the states to get a grasp of what their rules are.

"I always wish they would allow us to stay in control," she said. "I think within five minutes of checking with our Department of Mineral Resources they would find that it is not a problem, and I think it would save them a lot of time and trouble."

Public and tribal lands get left behind for drilling because there are additional procedures to start fracking, said Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs for Western Energy Alliance in Denver, a nonprofit trade association representing 400 companies in the oil and natural gas industry.

"It puts public and tribal lands at a disadvantage compared to private and state lands," she said. "It will continue to add more process and delays to further disadvantage those lands."

The change will also require the Department of Interior and the BLM to enforce it, and the departments don't have enough people to properly check on all the companies across the nation, Ness said.

The rule shouldn't slow down oil production in North Dakota, Crandall said.

"The proposed rule works very hard not to duplicate efforts that oil and gas operators are already making in terms of hydraulic fracturing disclosure, and it works very hard to support those state regulations." she said. "It was crafted in such a way that it would accomplish its goal without doing that."

The BLM wants citizens to review the proposal and submit comments before the final draft is completed. Crandall could not confirm when the rule would be ready to go into effect.

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