Proposed legislation would allow a state to control hydraulic fracturing on public lands within its borders

On July 18, 2013, U.S. Representative Bill Flores (R-Texas) proposed legislation (H.B. 2728 – Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act) that would allow a state to control hydraulic fracturing on public lands within its borders if the state has hydraulic fracturing rules already in place. This legislation would bar the federal government from applying the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed regulations (see prior blog dated May 16, 2013, “BLM Releases revised proposed rules on hydraulic fracturing”) regardless of whether the state’s rules are duplicative, more or less restrictive, have different requirements or do not meet federal guidelines. Representative Flores stated that, with the states’ “long and successful track record of regulation oil and gas operations,” the bill halts “overreaching federal involvement in hydraulic fracturing operations” and “recognizes constitutionally protected states’ rights by continuing to let states effectively regulate themselves through a proven system that is working.” A hearing on this legislation will be held on July 25, 2013, before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee.

This proposed legislation came one day after Interior Secretary Sally Jewell testified before the House Natural Resources Committee on the operations, management and rulemakings of the Department. At the hearing, Secretary Jewell defended the proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations, stating that a “universal baseline” was needed to ensure the safe and responsible development of natural gas resources on federal lands because the current federal rules are outdated and states vary in their understanding of hydraulic fracturing, with many states having no rules relating to the process.