On March 20, 2015, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), part of the US Department of the Interior, issued a final rule titled “Oil and Gas; Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands,” scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, March 26, 2015. The final rule follows both the 2012 proposed rule and the 2013 supplemental proposed rule, as well as the more than 1.5 million public comments made thereon.

Key components of the rule, which will take effect in 90 days, include:

  • Provisions for ensuring the protection of groundwater supplies by requiring a validation of well integrity and strong cement barriers between the wellbore and water zones through which the wellbore passes;
  • Increased transparency by requiring companies to publicly disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing to the Bureau of Land Management through the website FracFocus within 30 days of completing fracturing operations;
  • Higher standards for interim storage of recovered waste fluids from hydraulic fracturing to mitigate risks to air, water and wildlife; and
  • Measures to lower the risk of cross-well contamination with chemicals and fluids used in the fracturing operation by requiring companies to submit more detailed information on the geology, depth and location of preexisting wells to afford the BLM an opportunity to better evaluate and manage unique site characteristics.

There are more than 100,000 oil and gas wells on federally managed lands. Of wells currently being drilled, more than 90 percent rely on hydraulic fracturing. The rule applies only to development on public and tribal lands and includes a process allowing states and tribes to request variances from provisions for which they have an equal or more protective regulation in place.