WASHINGTON – As the Interior Department prepares to release new federal fracking regulations, a sportsmen’s coalition is urging officials to make sure the rules will adequately protect air and water quality, fish and wildlife.
The update to oil and gas drilling methods on federal and tribal lands is the first in about 30 years, Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development noted Tuesday. Meanwhile, the process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has significantly changed, opening previously inaccessible land to development.
“The reality is the technology and methods have changed since the original rule was put in place. Today, millions of gallons of fluids and chemicals are injected underground at high pressure,’’ said Brad Powell, Senior Policy Director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen Conservation Project. ``We know there are a lot of good companies doing the right thing. But it’s critical to have safeguards in place. We can’t run the risk of contaminating groundwater or surface water and endangering people, fish and wildlife.”
The National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership are the lead partners in the SFRED coalition. SFRED supports requiring companies to disclose the chemicals in fracking fluids both before and after drilling so appropriate steps can be taken to safeguard natural resources.
Hunters and anglers urge the Interior Department to retain provisions in an earlier draft of the rules that address well-casing integrity and fracking fluid waste. The fluids must be properly contained and water quality must be monitored, coalition members said.
The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a hearing Wednesday on the federal fracking rule. Hunters and anglers encourage committee members to implement federal oil and gas regulations that match the industry’s 21st century technology.
Federal lands: a public trust
SFRED members also stressed that the Bureau of Land Management must not abdicate its responsibility for managing federal lands to the states as some in Congress have suggested.
``A responsible Federal policy is needed to set a baseline that all States must meet on Federal lands,’’ SFRED said in written testimony to be submitted to the Natural Resources Committee.
``The committee’s hearing notice calls a new federal rule a recipe for `waste, duplication and delay,’ and we respectfully disagree,’’ said Lew Carpenter, the National Wildlife Federation’s regional representative. `` Lawmakers need to remember that the public lands they’re discussing belong to all Americans who cherish them for the clean water, fishing, hunting and recreation they provide.’’
SFRED understands that energy is vital to our economy and way of life and that decreasing our reliance on foreign sources is important.
``At the same time, federal lands are a public trust, managed for multiple uses. Economies across the West rely on the tourism and recreation public lands sustain,’’ said Ed Arnett, director of energy programs for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. ``These public lands provide a lifestyle that draws people and businesses to the area. They’re a priceless legacy and a treasure we hope to leave to future generations.’’ Trucks line up at a fracking site in western Colorado. Photo by Judith Kohler