BLM's Federal Lands Fracking Rule: Merits and Ramifications

Date01 October 2015
10-2015 NEWS & ANALYSIS 45 ELR 10915
BLM’s Federal Lands Fracking
Rule: Merits and Ramif‌ications
On March 20, 2015, the Bureau of Land Manage-
ment (BLM) issued a nal rule regulating hydraulic
fracturing on federal and Indian lands. e new regu-
lations will require public disclosure of chemicals used
in frack ing uids, higher standards for storing water
produced by wells, and the provision of more geologic
information in an eort to decrease the risk of cross-
well contamination. ough the rule will only impact
about 100,000 wells, or 10% of fracking operations in
the United States, critics from across the political spec-
trum have challenged it in the press and in the courts.
Industry groups led suit arguing it is duplicative of
state and tribal regulations and not based on scientic
evidence. Wyoming and North Dakota went to court
claiming, among other things, that BLM’s rule con-
icts with the Safe Drinking Water Act. Indian tribes
have also spoken out, suggesting that the rule improp-
erly aliates Indian lands with federal land. On the
other hand, environmental organizations have decried
the rule as insucient to prevent the risks associated
with fracking and overly accommodating to indus-
try. On May 28, 2015, the Environmental Law Insti-
tute held a seminar on the rule, which has since been
stayed by the U.S. District Court of Wyoming. Below
we present a transcript of the discussion, which has
been edited for style, clarity, and space considerations.
Paul Smyth (moderator) is a Senior Counsel at Perkins
Coie, formerly with the U.S. Department of the Interior,
Oce of the Solicitor.
Richard McNeer is an attorney with t he U.S. Depart-
ment of the Interior, Oce of the Solicitor, Division of
Mineral Resources.
Poe Leggette is a Partner at Baker & Hostetler.
Amy Mall is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Natural
Resources Defense Council.
Hillary Hofmann is a Professor of Law at Vermont Law
School’s Environmental Center.
Paul Smyth: Today’s Dialogue topic is the Bureau of Land
Management (BLM) nal rule providing some regulation
of hydraulic fracturing , commonly known as fracking, on
federal and Indian lands. e rules were issued by the U.S.
Department of the Interior (DOI) on March 20, 2015, and
published in the Federal Register on March 26. ey set
standards for fracking in oil and gas wells drilled on federal
lands.1 e rules require companies to disclose the specics
of chemicals used in t he fracking process on FracFocus,
a national hydraulic fracturing chemical registry, within
30 days of completing fracking operations.2 In addition,
the rules require operators on federal lands to inspect con-
crete barriers, the lining of fracking wells, and to provide
detailed information regarding well geology to BLM.
We have an outstanding panel today. e rst of our
four speakers will be R ichard McNeer, an attorney in the
Solicitor’s Oce at DOI. Richard is in the Division of
Mineral Resources, and has been with the Solicitor’s Oce
since 1988. For the past ve years, he’s focused on onshore
oil and gas and related resource issues for BLM.
Our second speaker, Poe Leggette, is a Partner in the
Denver oces of Baker & Hostetler. His practice focuses
on litigation and transactional work in the energy indus-
try. His experience includes onshore shale plays, oil and gas
companies operating on federal and Indian lands, and com-
panies operating under federal leases in the Gulf of Mex-
ico. He’s also the co-leader of his rm’s National Energy
and Shale Practice Team. Before entering private practice,
Poe was at DOI a s Assistant Solicitor in the Energy and
Resources Division, where he advised BLM and the then
Minerals Management Ser vice (MMS) on their onshore
and oshore energy program, as well as MMS’ Royalty
Management Program.
Amy Mall, our third speaker, is a Senior Policy Analyst
at the Natural Resources Defense Council. She focuses on
protecting the environment and sensitive lands, and pro-
tecting communities from harmful oil and gas exploration
and production operations. Before joining the Council,
she worked in the private sector a nd in county, state, and
federal government, including the White House National
Economic Council and the U.S. Senate.
1. Oil and Gas Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands, 80 Fed.
Reg. 16128 (Mar. 26, 2015).
2. For more information, visit the FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry,
Copyright © 2015 Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, DC. Reprinted with permission from ELR®,, 1-800-433-5120.

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