The fracking boom in the U.S. over the past decade or so
reminds me a bit of the Kentucky Derby with companies racing to
access vast amounts of
in shale rock. However, the industry has been somewhat hampered
by the public outcry over the possible dangers of the hydrocarbon
extraction process and a horse race of sorts among municipalities
and states to see who can impose the most rules the fastest.
Some local and state governments have either enacted temporary
bans on fracking or otherwise imposed regulations on the
practice. And now the federal government is poised to pull a
Carry Back (the 1961 come-from-behind Kentucky Derby winner) and
win the regulation derby.
The Obama administration is expected to release a number of
regulations for the fracking industry in the next few days which
are reportedly designed to increase environmental safety. While
the rules will only initially be for fracking on federal lands,
the rules may be used as guidelines for fracking regulations on
reports that in 2010 about 14 percent of natural gas production
nationwide occurred on federal lands.
"We intend to propose a rule that supports the
administration's goal of continuing to expand production of
resources on federal and Indian lands by taking steps to ensure
public confidence in hydraulic fracturing and other technologies
that will play an integral role in our nation's energy
," an Interior Department official told the news source.
According to a draft of the rules obtained by
The Wall Street Journal
, guidelines will be
in place for both the construction of new wells and the treatment
This latter point will be important as fracking involves
millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals being
pumped into the ground. Dealing with this leftover water has been
a concern for the industry, particularly since some water
disposal wells were linked to earthquakes in Ohio.
The draft of the rules weren't all bad for the industry
however, as a stipulation that would have required companies to
disclose what chemicals they put in wells in advance was
softened. According to the draft, companies will only have to say
what chemicals they use after they put them in the ground.
The Natural Resources Defense Council was reportedly pleased
with some aspects of the rules but said there was more that could
have been done.
"The bottom line for us is that we think the [Interior
Department] should have strong rules that should not be weaker
than what any state has on its books," Amy Mall, an NRDC senior
policy analyst, told the Journal. "They should be setting a model
for the nation."
Fracking has helped the U.S. become the largest producer of
natural gas in the world, surpassing Russia. In addition, it has
allowed the U.S. to stop importing so much of the hydrocarbon
This progress has caused a glut of natural gas to be available
, pushing its price below $2 per 1,000 cubic feet earlier this
year, which was its lowest level in about a decade.
have been rebounding somewhat, gaining 4 percent of Thursday, May
3, increasing 8.7 cents to $2.34 per 1,000 cubic feet.
The Associated Press
reported that supplies of natural gas have fallen more in line
with norms. According to a government report, natural gas
supplies increased 28 billion cubic feet last week, lower than
the 30-34 billion cubic feet predicted by some analysts, reports
the news provider.
Still, the Energy Information Administration says that
supplies are still 50 percent higher than the average for this
time of year.