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Statement of Jennifer Krill, Earthworks' Executive director:

“Today the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released new draft rules governing hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on federal public lands and some private lands where the federal government owns the sub-surface mineral rights. With this rulemaking, the BLM and the Obama administration had the opportunity to improve public oversight by incorporating emerging science and the hard-won experience of communities living with oil and gas development across the country.

But they did not.

Instead, the BLM released an irresponsibly feeble updated draft rule – even weaker than last year’s draft. If this draft is not improved, then the BLM will allow pits full of toxic oil and gas waste on our public lands, wait until after drilling has occurred to require disclosure of fracking chemicals, authorize weak cementing standards, refuse to require baseline water testing prior to fracking, omit setbacks from homes or other buildings, and continue the use of diesel fuel in fracking.

After a public comment period where thousands of concerned citizens voiced all of these shortcomings, the BLM has instead acquiesced to nearly all the demands of the oil and gas industry.  Not only will the oil and gas industry have weak standards for drilling on public lands, they will also have expedited permit review. Adding insult to injury, the rule sets a dangerous precedent for other states updating their oversight.

The Obama Administration claims they will extract domestic fossil fuels only if they can protect air, water, and public health. And the President even convened a subcommittee of his Department of Energy’s Scientific Advisory Board to accomplish this objective.  While that report recommended a series of reasonable precautions, few of its substantive recommendations are part of today’s rule.  

President Obama and Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell need to recognize that the explosion of oil and gas drilling on the public’s lands must not come at the expense of the public’s health and environment.  This latest draft rule should go back to the drawing board.”