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The Federal Government Joins the Fray: The BLM's Final Hydraulic Fracturing Rules

March 26, 2015

On March 20, 2015, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued its final rules for hydraulic fracturing on federal and tribal lands (Final Rules). The Final Rules govern approximately 700 million subsurface acres overseen by the BLM, and they culminate a rulemaking process that began in November 2010. Among other things, they are intended to ensure the integrity of hydraulically fractured wells, protect water quality, and provide the public with information on fracturing fluid constituents. During the rulemaking process, the BLM received more than 1.5 million public comments, with some commenters arguing that new federal rules will duplicate current state regulations and impose unnecessary regulatory burdens, while others argued that the proposed rules did not go far enough. Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Janice Schneider said the Final Rules “will protect public health and the environment during and after hydraulic fracturing operations at a modest cost while both respecting the work previously done by the industry, the states and the tribes and promoting the adoption of more protective standards across the country.” However, the Final Rules are likely to continue to draw criticism from all sides as they are implemented, and have already been challenged in federal district court.