Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 20, 2015

Contact: Patrick Sullivan, (415) 517-9364,

Obama Administration's Weak New Fracking Rule Endangers Public Lands, Climate

Fracking Ban Needed to Protect Wild Areas, Human Health

WASHINGTON— Interior Secretary Sally Jewell today released a weak new rule for hydraulic fracturing on public lands that does little to reduce fracking pollution’s dangerous contribution to global warming and damage to America’s air, water and wildlife.

“Fracking pollution endangers public lands and public health across America, but these flimsy regulations barely scratch the surface of the threat,” said Clare Lakewood of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Fracking disrupts our climate and contaminates our air and water. To fight global warming and protect this country’s wild places, the Obama administration has to ban fracking on public lands.”

The new Bureau of Land Management regulations would apply to fracking on the millions of acres of public land leased to oil and gas companies for drilling and fracking. About 90 percent of wells drilled on public lands are fracked, according to the Interior Department.

The new final rule is a weakened version of draft regulations first released in 2012. After the Obama administration weakened the proposed rules in the face of oil industry pressure in 2013, a coalition of 275 environmental and consumer organizations delivered more than 600,000 public comments asking the federal government to ban fracking on public lands.

The new BLM regulations have no provisions for reducing air pollution, despite a Colorado School of Public Health study finding that people living near fracked wells are at greater risk of asthma and other respiratory problems, as well as cancer, caused by air pollutants.

Though the new regulations do impose some restrictions on how fracking wastewater can be stored, they will not curtail the vast amount of toxic fluid produced by the fracking process. Much of this fluid is injected into underground disposal wells, which can increase earthquake risk.

In California, regulators recently revealed that oil industry wastewater has been dumped into hundreds of illegal disposal wells operating in protected aquifers, including wells on BLM-managed public land.

Despite Secretary Jewell’s recent statement about the urgent need to cut planet-warming pollution, the new fracking regulations also don't require well operators to use devices to capture methane, a dangerously potent greenhouse gas that traps heat at least 87 times more effectively than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

The regulations do not require disclosure of the chemicals used until after fracking operations are completed. They also allow well operators to avoid disclosing chemicals merely by asserting a trade-secret claim.

One-fifth of America’s greenhouse gas pollution can be attributed to fossil fuel leases on public lands, according to a recent report from Stratus Consulting. Yet Sec. Jewell recently pledged to open up more public land to drilling, mining and fracking.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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