The oil and gas industry is celebrating last week’s news that the Interior Department is suspending its proposing rules for hydraulic fracturing on public lands. The better way to view this is as the calm before next year’s federal regulatory surge.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued the new draft fracking rules in May, elbowing in on turf long occupied by the 50 states. The regulations, covering everything from disclosure of drilling chemicals to well integrity, are redundant. Drillers on federal lands are already subject to state regulations, and there have been no notable scandals or examples of botched oversight. The Environmental Protection Agency has tried to dig up pollution stories, only to have the evidence turn out to be phony or otherwise explainable.