The Interior Department no longer plans to finalize rules this year that will impose new controls on the controversial oil-and-gas development method called hydraulic fracturing, a spokesman said.
“In order to ensure that the 170,000 comments received are properly analyzed, the Bureau of Land Management expects action on the [hydraulic fracturing] proposal in the new year,” Interior spokesman Blake Androff said.
In May, Interior floated draft rules that would force drillers, when operating on federal lands, to disclose chemicals used when employing the method dubbed “fracking.” Interior officials had previously said they that planned to complete the rules by the end of 2012.
Fracking involves high-pressure injections of water, chemicals and sand into shale formations to open seams that enable hydrocarbons to flow.
The method is enabling an oil-and-gas production boom in a number of states, but is bringing fears of water pollution alongside it.
The proposed rules for federal lands have faced heavy criticism from industry groups and some Republicans, who say state oversight is sufficient.
The draft rules also contained requirements on oil-and-gas well integrity to verify that fluids from the fracking process aren’t escaping into nearby water supplies, and requirements for management of large volumes of so-called flowback water.
Androff on Tuesday defended the planned rules and President Obama’s record on oil and natural gas, noting U.S. production increases in recent years.
“[A]s we continue to offer millions of acres of America’s public lands for oil and gas development, it is important that the public have full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place,” Androff said in a statement.
“Building on preliminary input from industry and other stakeholders, the BLM proposed a sensible and achievable rule that supports these goals by leveraging technologies already in use by companies to protect important water resources and through the disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing,” he said.
This post was updated at 6:50 p.m.