Fracking rules could violate state water laws, pols contend
Forty-three members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar saying proposed Bureau of Land Management rules on hydraulic fracturing could violate state water laws.
The letter’s principal author was Rep. Cory Gardner and its signers include fellow Colorado Republicans Scott Tipton and Mike Coffman.
“The rules give BLM veto authority over water use related to oil and gas development on federal lands, which is entirely inappropriate,” the letter states.
Its criticism is dismissed by Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“There’s nothing in (the proposal) that tells an operator where they can and can’t get their water from, so I think it’s a total red herring,” she said.
In May, Salazar announced a proposal to require public disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. Such a requirement previously was adopted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and already applies to BLM lands in the state. However, the BLM also proposes preapproval of fracturing operations. It also proposes measures to help keep fracturing fluids from escaping along well bores, and to ensure they are properly handled.
Asked to elaborate on Gardner’s concerns, his office said the BLM is proposing approval of things such as the water source of fracking and the location of the water. It would have the ability to veto water use that may have been approved by the state and may involve water rights contracted by their holder to an energy company.
“The BLM could infringe and restrict the transfer of a water right under this proposed rule,” it said.
The letter also says the rules could discourage efforts to recycle water. Gardner’s office said disclosure covers the “complete chemical makeup of all materials used in the actual stimulation fluid,” including the base fluid, water. When recycled, that water may contain naturally occurring compounds from underground formations. The rule would require testing, creating an incentive to simply use fresh water, Gardner contends.