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New rules for fracking companies

Published: Saturday, Aug. 1 2015 4:42 a.m. MDT

Workers tend to a well head earlier this year during a hydraulic fracturing operation at an Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. gas well outside Rifle, Colo. The Obama administration announced new requirements for drilling.    (Associated Press) Workers tend to a well head earlier this year during a hydraulic fracturing operation at an Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. gas well outside Rifle, Colo. The Obama administration announced new requirements for drilling. (Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — Companies that drill for oil and natural gas on federal lands will be required to disclose publicly the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations, the Obama administration said Thursday. The new "fracking" rule replaces a draft proposed last year that was withdrawn amid industry complaints that federal regulation could hinder an ongoing boom in natural gas production.

The new draft rule relies on an online database used by Colorado and 10 other states to track the chemicals used in fracking operations. FracFocus.org is a website formed by industry and intergovernmental groups in 2011 that allows users to gather well-specific data on thousands of drilling sites.

The proposed rule also sets standards for proper construction of wells and disposal of wastewater.

Fracking involves pumping huge volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to split open rocks to allow oil and gas to flow. Improved technology has allowed energy companies to gain access to huge stores of natural gas underneath states from Wyoming to New York but has raised widespread concerns about alleged groundwater contamination and even earthquakes.

FILE - In this March 7, 2013 file photo, then-Interior Secretary nominee Sally Jewell testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Obama administration is proposing a rule that would require companies that drill for oil and natural gas on federal lands to publicly disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations. The new FILE - In this March 7, 2013 file photo, then-Interior Secretary nominee Sally Jewell testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Obama administration is proposing a rule that would require companies that drill for oil and natural gas on federal lands to publicly disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations. The new "fracking" rule replaces a draft proposed last year that was withdrawn amid industry complaints that federal regulation could hinder an ongoing boom in natural gas production. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File) (Associated Press)

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell called the proposed rule a "common-sense update" that increases safety while also providing flexibility and improving coordination with states and Indian tribes.

Current regulations date back to 1982, when the Sony Walkman was considered cutting-edge, Jewell said.

"As we continue to offer millions of acres of America's public lands for oil and gas development, it is important that the public has full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place," she said.

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