A recent proposal by the U.S. Department of Interior would require shale gas developers to reveal the chemicals used while drilling for shale gas on public lands.
Many drilling opponents blame these chemicals for polluting groundwater and causing illnesses. These opponents would likely support such regulation. Natural gas developers are likely to argue against such regulations. They maintain that such regulations are repetitive and expensive. They want these regulations to be enforced at the state level since the geography varies from region to region, and argue that a nationwide one-size-fits-all approach is simply impractical.
“As the President has made clear, this administration’s energy strategy is an all-out effort to boost American production of every available source of energy,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “As we continue to offer millions of acres of America’s public lands for oil and gas development, it is critical that the public have full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place. The proposed rule will modernize our management of well stimulation activities—including hydraulic fracturing—to make sure that fracturing operations conducted on public and Indian lands follow common-sense industry best practices.”
Currently, there is no specific requirement for operators to disclose these chemicals on federal and Indian lands, where approximately 90 percent of the wells drilled use hydraulic fracturing to greatly increase the volume of oil and gas available for production. The proposed rule would require public disclosure of chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing after fracturing operations have been completed.
The measure supports the continued development of America’s abundant oil and gas resources on federal and Indian lands by taking steps to ensure public confidence in well stimulation techniques and technologies, including hydraulic fracturing. It is also in line with steps that some states have already taken, requiring operators to disclose the chemicals they use in activities on state lands.
The draft rule also contains two additional measures to ensure development continues safely and responsibly:
- Improving assurances on well-bore integrity to verify that fluids used in wells during fracturing operations are not escaping; and
- Confirming that oil and gas operators have a water management plan in place for handling fracturing fluids that flow back to the surface.
Some natural gas producers such as Chesapeake Energy already disclose the chemicals they use in fracking.
One thing is for sure. As natural gas developers continue to drill, consumers will question the safety of their practices. If these developers seek to keep their chemical usage confidential, consumer skepticism will never end.