John M. Broder: New Proposal on Fracking Gives Ground to Industry!
The Obama administration on Friday issued a proposed rule governing hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas on public lands, that will for the first time require disclosure of the chemicals used in the process. But in a significant concession to the oil industry, companies will have to reveal the composition of fluids only after they have completed drilling, a sharp change from the government's original proposal, which would have required disclosure of the chemicals 30 days before a well could be started. The pullback on the rule followed a series of meetings at the White House after the original regulation was proposed in February. Lobbyists representing oil industry trade associations and individual major producers like Exxon-Mobil, XTO Energy, Apache, Samson Resources and Anadarko Petroleum, met with officials of the Office of Management and Budget, who reworked the rule to address industry concerns about overlapping state regulations and the cost of compliance. Production of domestic oil and natural gas has surged in recent years, as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have opened new fields and allowed renewed production from formations that had seemed depleted. President Obama has strongly endorsed the new production as a boon to the economy and energy security, and the president, under intense criticism of his energy policies from Republicans and oil industry officials as he faces a re-election contest, has recently taken steps to ease government regulation of oil operations. In its original proposal oil companies disclose the chemicals they intend to use in drilling before starting a well, the Interior Department was seeking to address the concerns of landowners and communities about potential pollution of groundwater.