A few months ago, our blog previewed this year's top 10 environmental legal issues related to shale gas. Late last week, there were developments in two of them. On May 4, the U. S. Department of the Interior (DOI) released its proposed rule to require companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations on public and Indian lands. The proposed rule, from DOI’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), will soon be published in the Federal Register. At that point, a 60-day public comment period will begin, during which the public, governments, industry and other stakeholders can provide their input.
The proposal identifies requirements for extensive information filings prior to drilling and reporting of what was done after the fracturing. For example, the proposed rule would require BLM’s approval of all well stimulation activity. In addition, an operator would be required to submit a drilling plan, including elements such as a detailed description of the well stimulation engineering design for BLM approval.
An operator would also have to submit the estimated or calculated fracture length and height anticipated as a result of the stimulation. The actual total volume of fluid used would have to be reported after the fracturing was performed. Further, the operator would have to report the actual handling and disposal of recovered fluids.
The information obtained by BLM is intended to be posted on a public web site, and BLM is working with the Ground Water Protection Council to determine whether the disclosure can be integrated into website FracFocus.org.