The Department of the Interior recently announced the first major federal regulations on fracking (hydraulic fracturing), a controversial drilling practice that extracts oil and gas from deep underground. The regulations are relatively simple, requiring the disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process and updating requirements on well construction and water discharge to protect nearby water sources.
The regulations only apply to fracking wells on federal and tribal lands, which make up a small percentage of the wells currently in use.
Unsurprisingly, the new regulations have been subject to extensive criticism from both ends of the political spectrum. Republicans and representatives of the oil and gas industries are claiming that the rules will hinder industry growth, and they have begun acting to prevent the regulations from going into effect.
On the other hand, Democrats and environmental advocates are frustrated that the federal guidelines don’t go far enough to prevent the harmful side effects of fracking, which may include contaminated groundwater and air pollution near wells.
Fracking is a relatively new energy extraction technology, and the lack of federal guidelines on the practice may lead to inconsistent or inadequate implementation of safety procedures. The new regulations are not heavily burdensome to fracking companies, and they will be relatively inexpensive to implement.
While the new regulations may not please people on either side of the aisle, we find them to be a simple and commonsensical step in helping to ensure safe outcomes from a controversial practice.