Department of Interior Releases Draft Rule on Well Stimulation

On February 3, 2012, the Department of the Interior became the latest government entity to release draft regulations governing hydraulic fracturing. The rules are in draft, meaning they are not yet being proposed for public comment. If adopted, the regulations would only govern hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian oil and gas leases.

Fulbright prepared a client briefing summarizing the details of the draft.  For the full client briefing please click here.  

Two points bear emphasis. 

First, the Department’s draft would slow the permitting process for hydraulic fracturing the producing formation when completing a well. Currently the Department does not routinely require prior approval for “routine fracturing or acidizing jobs.” 43 C.F.R. § 3162.3-2(b). The draft rule requires a lessee to file for approval of any well stimulation work (including fracturing) “at least 30 days before commencement of operations[.]” 43 C.F.R. § 3162.3-3(a) (draft).

Second, the Department has not yet released the documentation showing its compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act. 44 U.S.C. § 3501 et seq. Among others things, that Act’s purpose is to reduce duplicative paperwork, and the requirements in Interior’s draft are duplicative of most information requirements of state oil and gas conservation commissions.

This action by the Department of the Interior comes shortly after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, in which he indicated his administration would require “all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use.”

The draft regulations are in line with the concerns expressed by President Obama regarding the protection of usable water, conservation of water, chemical disclosure, casing integrity, and flowback water. 

The briefing was prepared by L. Poe Leggette ( or 303 801 2746), Barclay Nicholson ( or 713 651 3662) and Jennifer Cadena ( or 303 801 2755) of the firm's Energy Practice Group.