The Obama administration will soon issue sweeping new environmental safety rules for hydraulic fracturing on federal land, setting a new standard that natural gas wells on all lands eventually could follow.
The rules, which are likely to be unveiled by the Interior Department within days, are designed to address concerns that the method of extracting natural gas known as "fracking" can contaminate groundwater. Among other things, they create new guidelines for constructing wells and treating waste water, according to a draft of the proposed rules reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
At the same time, the department loosened a proposed requirement for companies to disclose the chemicals they use to extract natural gas from the earth, after the industry complained an earlier version would slow drilling too much.
The change, which disappointed environmentalists, is a fresh sign that the administration is heeding industry concerns after Republican complaints of over-regulation.
Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency gave the industry two years to comply with new air quality standards for oil and natural gas wells after the industry complained it would be difficult to meet new standards. Initially, the department wanted energy companies to specify in advance which chemicals they put into fracking fluids.