Dems Question BLM Withdrawal of Fracking Rule – Agency Admits It Won’t Generate New Energy on Public Lands

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, sent a letter this morning to Joseph Balash, assistant secretary of the Interior for land and minerals management, questioning the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) decision to withdraw its fracking rule, which lays out environmental and operational safety standards for fracking operations on public lands. The agency admits the withdrawal will not lead to any new fracking activity on public lands, calling into question what new economic activity the administration expects to generate.

The administration published a final rule on Dec. 29, 2017, withdrawing the Obama-era rule. As the lawmakers write today:

Incredibly, the BLM even states repeatedly throughout the December 29 Federal Register Notice and supplemental documents that rescinding the 2015 hydraulic fracturing rule will not have any impact on the number of hydraulic fracturing operations on public lands, making it clear that the only purpose of rescinding the rule is to reduce accountability and lower costs for oil and gas companies, not increase energy production or create additional jobs.

The Democrats highlight the need for industry accountability and publicly available information: “Given that without the 2015 fracking rule, BLM cannot even say with specificity how many wells on Federal and Indian lands undergo hydraulic fracturing, it is an absolute certainty that rescinding the rule will reduce public awareness and understanding of the practice, which is too steep of a price to pay simply to save industry a de minimis addition to the cost of a well.”

The administration justifies the rule’s withdrawal by claiming that state laws render it redundant. Those laws, the Democrats write, are a patchwork of dissimilar standards that vary widely from state to state and are not equally environmentally protective, as BLM’s own analysis has shown.

Grijalva and Lowenthal request correspondence between the Office of the Secretary of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management regarding the review and rescission of the rule, as well as correspondence, interagency comments, industry input and state documents on the rule and its ultimate withdrawal. The full letter is available at http://bit.ly/2APBiJ4.

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