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BLM, Tribes Continue Dialogue on Hydraulic Fracturing Rule

WASHINGTON – Building on the eight outreach sessions held last year with Tribal communities and the 22 formal one-one-one tribal consultations, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has scheduled two additional regional outreach meetings with Tribal representatives to discuss how the Bureau’s proposed hydraulic fracturing rule would strengthen oil and gas operations on Indian trust lands.

The announcement of the meetings – planned for June 18 in Dickinson, ND, and June 20 in Farmington, NM – comes in conjunction with the publication of a revised proposed rule on hydraulic fracturing on public and Indian lands on May 24 in Federal Register.

Following the release of an initial draft proposal in 2012, Interior received extensive feedback, including over 177,000 public comments as well as suggestions from Indian tribes that helped inform the updated draft proposal.  The new proposal maintains important safety standards, improves integration with existing state and tribal standards, and increases flexibility for oil and gas operators.  The updated draft proposal is subject to a new 90-day public comment period, which ends on August 23, 2013.

“For more than a year, the BLM and many Indian tribes have engaged in a dialogue – both through regional meetings and government-to-government consultation – in which many clear and valid points were made about what a hydraulic fracturing rule needs to do,” said BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze.

“We believe the revised rule enables us to meet our trust responsibilities for oil and gas development on Indian lands, while recognizing issues such as sovereignty, economic development, and water rights,” Kornze said.

The Indian Mineral Leasing Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, who oversees the BLM, to administer the oil and gas leasing program under regulations specific to Indian trust lands, in an effort to provide the same protections to these lands that are accorded to public lands.

Last year, the BLM held eight separate outreach sessions for Tribal communities in addition to 22 formal one-to-one Tribal consultations. 

At this year’s regional meetings, BLM staff will present background information regarding hydraulic fracturing, explain the current provisions of the rule, and how it was revised to address tribal concerns.   The program will also include time to answer questions and take suggestions.

The revised rule supports the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above commitment and approach to American energy by expanding domestic oil and gas production in order to further American energy self-reliance, while remaining focused on ensuring safe and responsible development on public and Indian lands.

Approximately 90 percent of wells drilled on Federal and Indian lands use hydraulic fracturing, but the BLM’s current regulations governing hydraulic fracturing operations on public and Indian lands are more than 30 years old and were not written to address modern hydraulic fracturing activities. The revised proposed rule will modernize BLM’s management of hydraulic fracturing operations, and help to establish baseline environmental safeguards for these operations across all public and Indian lands.

The updated draft proposal maintains the three main components of the initial proposal: requiring operators to disclose the chemicals they use in fracturing activities on public lands; improving assurances of well-bore integrity to verify that fluids used during fracturing operations are not contaminating groundwater; and confirming that oil and gas operators have a water management plan in place for handling fluids that flow back to the surface.

Representatives of tribes with interests in oil and gas development are invited to attend one of the following two meetings:

– June 18, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Ramada Grand Dakota Lodge and Conference Center, 532 15th Street West, Dickinson, ND, 58601.  Reservations:  800-422-0949 (a limited number of rooms at a conference rate are available).

– June 20, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

San Juan Community College, Computer Science Building Lecture Hall, 4601 College Blvd., Farmington, NM, 87402.  Information:  Patrick Papich, BLM Farmington Field Office, 505-320-5161.

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