Posted: May 17, 2013 9:02 AM by Joel Lundstad - MTN News
BILLINGS - The Bureau of Land Management has released its revised plan to establish new baseline standards for hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking for the first time in over 30 years.
The BLM oversees nearly 800 million acres of public and tribal land across the country, and the new plan requires companies to disclose chemicals used in the fracking process - but they can wait until after drilling begins.
Those specific chemicals would then be posted online, but companies will be allowed to keep certain trade secrets "confidential." Drilling firms would be required to assure the integrity of wells to protect groundwater, and a management plan is required to contain all fluids returned to the surface.
BLM officials say the new plan creates common sense safety standards, while allowing more flexibility for energy producers. But, the revisions immediately came under fire from environmentalists.
One problem at issue for the group Earthjustice is the fact that companies are not forced to disclose the chemicals before they're pumped into the ground.
Meanwhile, representatives with the Montana Petroleum Association have their own concerns, saying they believe the new revisions are excessive and will hurt energy development in the state.
Executive Director Dave Galt says the proposed federal standards will significantly increase costs.
"Thirty percent of the state of Montana is federal lands. Development on Federal lands has fallen off the map. Several years ago, we had as many as 150 drilling permits. We're down in the 20's now. This will just make it worse," Galt predicted.
A final decision on the plan is expected later this summer after a 30 day public comment period.