Sportsmen Recommend Improvements to Federal ‘Fracking’ Rule

Updated rule strengthens conservation, safety regulations but needs refinement, says sportsmen’s coalition

08-22-2013 // Judith Kohler
Haliburton TrucksA national sportsmen’s coalition has submitted detailed recommendations to the Department of the Interior for strengthening a federal rule regulating hydraulic fracturing  on public lands, including measures that would improve transparency and the management of all fluids in a drilling process that has the potential to affect broad expanses of valuable fish and wildlife habitat and public access to recreation in these areas.

The rule establishes safety standards for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” on federally owned lands and would update regulations, including activities affecting water quality and quantity, that are at least 30 years old. The BLM has said that public comments, due Friday, will be considered as it finalizes revisions to the regulations.

The Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development coalition has commended the Bureau of Land Management for moving forward with the regulation – and for its commitment to engaging members of the public during development of the rule – but the sportsmen stressed that significant room for improvement remains.  

"Our coalition appreciates the need to expand hydraulic fracturing technologies in the extraction of oil and gas on federal lands, and we thank the BLM for its willingness to address this issue," said Kate Zimmerman, public lands policy director for the National Wildlife Federation. “Federal lands are a public trust, managed for multiple uses, including the conservation of fish and wildlife habitat as well as energy development. The BLM has the responsibility to ensure that activities on these lands are conducted safely and conscientiously in a manner that preserves fish and wildlife habitats and recreation values for all Americans. The BLM cannot abdicate this responsibility in the hope that the states or others will fill the void.”

The SFRED coalition opposes a federal bill, H.R. 2728, that would prohibit the BLM from regulating fracking on federal land in states with their own rules. Regulations and enforcement can vary widely from state to state and consistent, minimum standards are needed to safeguard important resources on public lands, the coalition said.

The proposed federal fracking rule outlines three overall objectives:

  1. providing disclosure to the public of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands,
  2. confirming that wells used in fracturing operations meet appropriate construction standards, and
  3. requiring that operators put appropriate plans in place for managing wastewater from fracturing operations. 

"Essential elements of the federal rule include a consistent baseline standard for regulating and managing hydraulic fracturing activities, full disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process, and confirmation that wells meet appropriate standards that ensure no contamination of groundwater and surface water,” said Brad Powell, senior policy director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. “These measures, as well as ensuring that operators appropriately manage all fluids produced during fracking, will enable energy development and conservation of important natural resources to proceed hand in hand.”

The National Wildlife Federation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited are lead partners in the SFRED coalition. SFRED has remained actively involved in establishing reasonable safeguards for fish and wildlife and their habitats during public lands energy development activities.

“We maintain that these regulations are a strong first step in better managing hydraulic fracturing operations on public lands,” said Ed Arnett, director of the TRCP Center for Responsible Energy Development. “While we believe the proposed rule needs improvement, we appreciate BLM’s work to assure citizens that our resources are being managed appropriately. Our coalition looks forward to continued opportunities to engage with the federal government to ensure that public lands energy development is pursued safely and responsibly.” 

Related Resources
  • What is fracking?
    Learn more about how hydraulic fracturing contaminates habitat, waterways, and even the drinking water with toxic chemicals.