A hydraulic fracturing site in Springville, Penn.
Photograph by Spencer Platt — Getty Images
By Reuters and Fortune Editors
March 20, 2015

The U.S. Department of Interior said Friday it has finalized new rules to govern drilling on federal land using a process known as fracking, including new measures to protect groundwater.

The rules, the culmination of a four-year process, will affect over 100,000 oil and gas wells on federally managed lands, 90% of which use the hydraulic fracturing technique.

It requires operators to validate well integrity and maintain strong cement barriers to prevent oil leaks into water supplies; requires firms to disclose the chemicals they use; strengthens standards for storing waste fluids and requires companies to submit more information before drilling.

The rules seek to set a national standard for the controversial drilling process, which to date has been governed by a mixture of state regulations.

The rules apply to a small percentage of oil and gas drilling on federal lands, which account for 11% of the natural gas and 5% of the oil the U.S. consumes, The Wall Street Journal said, citing Interior Department data.

Most fracturing takes place on private or state land that won’t be subject to the regulations, the newspaper noted.

The contentious drilling practice has helped to drive an energy boom in the U.S. in recent years.

For more on fracking and its impact on local economies, read Jennifer Reingold’s article Will America’s shale boomtown bust?


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