WASHINGTON - The U.S. Interior Department on Friday proposed new rules regulating oil and gas drilling on public lands and said it would finalize them this year, setting a new standard for regulations that could be adopted in many states.
The rules are designed to address concerns that hydraulic fracturing, the widely used method of extracting natural gas known as "fracking," can contaminate groundwater. The proposal is now subject to a public-comment period before being finalized.
"It is our intention to have a rule in place at the end of this year," Bob Abbey, director of the department's Bureau of Land Management, said during a conference call with reporters.
As expected, the rules would require companies to specify the chemicals used in the fracturing process after they are injected into the ground, rather than before they are used as some environmentalists had hoped.
The rules would also create new guidelines for constructing wells and treating waste water, requiring that companies conduct a test to ensure wells are properly cemented to prevent leaks and that they draft plans to manage water that flows back to the surface at the end of the fracturing process.
"This is part of what we need to do to make sure the American public has confidence in the future of natural gas," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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