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Fracking rule shouldn’t be enacted

Regulatory “oversight of fracking raises concerns,” the Tennessean stated in early June, as this mining practice expands in Tennessee.
A Pennsylvania-based company currently drilling for natural gas in Anderson County, it noted, holds gas leases on nearly 250,000 acres in East Tennessee.
The University of Tennessee was granted permission by the state to open to hydraulic fracturing 8,600 pristine acres in the Cumberland Forest, a public-lands asset held by UT since 1936.
When the state adopted new oil and gas regulations last year, it framed them in such a way that public notice of fracking plans, and right of landowners or municipalities to request testing of drinking-water wells, are almost always avoided. This results from an arbitrarily high threshold — 200,000 gallons or more — of water use if proposed in fracking-permit applications.
Companies drilling here, though, the Tennessean notes, “prefer a method called a dry frack,” which uses nitrogen and chemicals primarily to fracture shale rock and release natural gas.
While public notice will be lacking in most cases, forced pooling provided for in the regulations can compel landowners to accede to fracking.
The rule requires only 200 feet of horizontal separation between an oil or gas well and an active drinking water well, or a home, and only 100 feet from a stream.
The state denied as too costly to industry citizens’ request of water-monitoring in relation to fracking and the request that operators divulge up-front, instead of 30 days after fracking, what chemicals will be injected underground in the process.
The Tennessean notes a summation, by the director of the Clean Water Network citizen group, of the oversight concerns in development of the rule: Tennessee “worked pretty hard to make sure industry got what it wanted.” Now comes word of similar issues at the national level.
On May 16 in the Federal Register, the Bureau of Land Management published a revised “Draft Rule for Hydraulic Fracturing on Public and Indian Lands,” on which it is seeking public input.
Almost all 3,400 wells drilled on the public lands each year use hydrofracking. An earlier draft drew more than 170,000 comments, many of them from citizens, public-interest groups, and lawmakers urging a strengthening of public-health and environmental-protection provisions, with inclusion of water testing and chemicals disclosure prior to drilling.
Doctors and other health professionals need access to chemical information in emergencies, the citizens said, and communities should be able to hold companies accountable if water sources are contaminated. The revised rule has been weakened instead of strengthened.
It keeps in place exemptions for hydrofracking from key requirements of federal water laws, enacted under the previous administration. Many chemicals being claimed as trade secrets, disclosure prior to fracking is waived; their required post-drilling reporting on an industry-funded website, only, calls into question data reliability, and comprehensiveness and its accessibility.
In the view of the Center for Effective Government, the proposed “BLM fracking rule bows to industry [and] ignores public concerns.”