WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration on Friday issued a
proposed rule governing hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas on
public lands that will for the first time require disclosure of the
chemicals used in the process.
But in a significant concession to the oil industry, companies
will have to reveal the composition of fluids only after they have
completed drilling, not before -- a sharp change from the
government's original proposal, which would have required disclosure
of the chemicals 30 days before a well could be started.
The walk-back of the rule followed a series of meetings at the
White House after the original regulation was proposed in February.
Lobbyists representing oil industry trade associations and
individual major producers such as Exxon Mobil, XTO Energy, Apache,
Samson Resources and Anadarko Petroleum met with Office of
Management and Budget officials, who reworked the rule to address
industry concerns about overlapping state regulations and the cost
Production of domestic oil and natural gas has surged in recent
years as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have opened
new fields and allowed renewed production from formations that had
President Barack Obama has strongly endorsed the new production
as a boon to the economy and energy security. And the president,
under criticism of his energy policies from Republicans and oil
industry officials as he faces re-election, has recently taken steps
to ease government regulation of oil operations.
In its original proposal that oil companies disclose the
chemicals they intended to use in drilling at least 30 days before
starting a well, the Interior Department was seeking to address the
concerns of landowners and communities about potential pollution of
groundwater. But industry objected, saying the additional paperwork
would slow the permitting process and potentially jeopardize trade
The government then agreed to allow companies to reveal the
contents of drilling fluids after the fracking operation has been
completed. Interior Department officials said having a record would
allow scientists to trace any future contamination, and that it did
not matter whether the fluids were disclosed before or after
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the proposed rule was part of
the administration's overall energy strategy. "As we continue to
offer millions of acres of America's public lands for oil and gas
development, it is critical that the public have full confidence
that the right safety and environmental protections are in place,"
he said. …