The Obama administration announced new regulations today that impose restrictions on fracking in certain areas of the country. The rules require companies to disclose the chemicals they use when drilling for gas or oil, and properly dispose of waste materials, The Washington Post reports.
Fracking — a process by which sand, water, and chemicals are used to extract natural gas from the earth — is a controversial method. Today’s ruling has been in draft form for more than three years while energy companies, environmental groups, and the public all weighed in, The New York Times reports. The White House’s updates are a response to fracking’s potential health and environmental risks in the face of its increasing popularity. The hydraulic drilling method has bolstered American energy production in recent years, but its long-term effects are still largely unknown.
The rules will take effect in June
“Current federal well-drilling regulations are more than 30 years old, and they simply have not kept pace with the technical complexities of today’s hydraulic fracturing operations,” said interior secretary Sally Jewell in the announcement today.
The rules require regular inspections of the cement walls that line fracking wells and gives energy companies 30 days after completing operations to disclose their chemical use. Companies must also follow updated guidelines for chemical storage and disposal.
Fracking is on track to becoming the largest production source of natural gas in the country, the Times reports, but it hasn’t been accepted nationwide. The process has already been banned in New York state for posing health risks in surrounding communities and has been targeted as the cause of massive earthquakes in Ohio.
Energy companies fear the regulations will stall production while public health organizations say the rules are not strong enough. The regulations only apply to fracking done on federal land, which accounts for just a small fraction of fracking in the US, the Post reports. The administration hopes these rules will serve as a template on which other regulators can build. The regulations will take effect in 90 days.