Reason for Review
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke directed the BLM to review the 2015 rule as part of Secretary’s Order No. 3349 (“Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth”), which was issued on March 29, 2017. During the review, the BLM found that all of the 32 states with oil and gas leases on BLM land already had some extent of state-level fracking regulations. The BLM then proposed the rescission of the 2015 rule following the Administration’s instruction to reduce the cost of regulatory compliance.
BLM Management of Mineral-rich Land
The BLM manages 258 million acres of public lands and nearly 700 million acres of subsurface minerals, including oil and natural gas. This accounts for 10% of the land in the United States and approximately 30% of the Nation’s minerals. These minerals are found beneath land managed by federal agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as private landowners. The rules for federal land and minerals development were written long before high-volume hydraulic fracturing and other modern technologies were used to produce oil and gas.
Pursuant to the Mineral Leasing Act (1920), the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (1976), the Indian mineral leasing laws, and other legal authorities, the BLM has the authority to administer oil and gas operations on Federal and Indian lands in a manner that allows for resource development “on the basis of multiple use and sustained yield.”
2015 Oil and Gas Rule
The 2015 rule’s stated intent was to modernize the BLM’s mineral management program. The specific objectives were to (1) ensure that oil and gas wells were properly constructed to protect water supplies, (2) make certain that the fluids that flow back to the surface as a result of hydraulic fracturing operations were managed in an environmentally responsible way, and (3) provide public disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids. The third objective was especially contentious as many hydraulic fracturing companies view their fluid composition as proprietary and do not wish to disclose the chemicals used.