Of course, this new rule applies only to 700 million acres of federal lands. So if you live near federally-owned property, tribal lands, national parks, national forests, national seashores, national monuments -- and your tap water suddenly smells bad, turns color or catches fire, or your hair and teeth start falling out, or you think you feel faint quakey rumblings under your feet.... you might have been permanently fracked. But never fear. Maybe next month, maybe next year and maybe after you're dead, the government will act in your best interest and let you know you have been bathing in benzene. And that it's good for your complexion.
Naturally, the Department of the Interior will be accepting "public comments" before actually implementing its pollution-friendly new rules. And it actually admits what I wrote the other day: that the self-serving FracFocus site is abysmally out of date and hard to use. It does bupkis to inform you how you are being affected by that eyesore of a gas well next door. The Bureau of Land Management, however, "understands that the database is in the process of being improved and will in the near future have enhanced search capabilities and allow for easier reporting of information." (italics mine.)
Reading between the lines of 80 pages of bureaucrat-ese, it does appear that the Interior Department will follow its long tradition of allowing energy companies to police themselves. The government will take their word for what they are doing and not necessarily verify any of it. We all know how well that laissez-faire policy worked out since the Deepwater Horizon explosion two years ago. No new oversight, no new laws, no criminal prosecutions. "The BLM will rely on the operator's certification that it has complied with all the laws and regulations that pertain to its operation."
The government report blithely assumes that frackers will voluntarily reduce the amount of their chemicals and use safer formulae, knowing they'll have to eventually own up to Uncle Sam. Transparency after the fact is so beneficial to the public, too! (see page 38 of the report.) And the better-late-than-never disclosures will help the government respond to "incidents", such as those inevitable well poisonings. Cooperation from the industry will ensure that the government can stock up on gazillions of gallons of drinking water furnished at great public cost by Coca-Cola and other for-profit beverage providers, too. It is win-win-win all around for the Great Public Private Partnerships in the great nation of Homelandia.
This sudden and sharp about-face on strict fracking rules just gives lie to the usual political canard that "change takes time" and we all just have to be patient when it comes to a progressive tax system, an improved economy and the like. When corporations want something, they can usually get it in record time. The easing of fracking rules comes mere months after industry big shots met with the Obama Administration to complain about regulations costing them too much time and money. From the New York Times:
The weakening of the rule followed a series of meetings at the White House after the original regulation was proposed in February. Lobbyists representing oil industry trade associations and individual major producers like ExxonMobil, XTO Energy, Apache, Samson Resources and Anadarko Petroleum met with officials of the Office of Management and Budget, who reworked the rule to address industry concerns about overlapping state regulations and the cost of compliance.
President Obama has strongly endorsed the new production as a boon to the economy and energy security. And the president, facing re-election under intense criticism of his energy policies from Republicans and oil industry officials, has recently taken steps to ease government regulation of oil operations.
In its original proposal that oil companies disclose the chemicals they intended to use in drilling at least 30 days before starting a well, the Interior Department was seeking to address the concerns of landowners about potential pollution of groundwater.
Industry complained, Obama listened. Just weeks after announcing a task force to make life easier for Big Oil and Gas, his Administration has accommodated these very important constituents. Landowners and consumers of water be damned. Why, the EPA even arranged for the firing of one of its fracking inspectors who actually had the nerve to insult polluters while he was doing his job.
The gas and oil industry has declared itself well-pleased with its government puppets. You can bet it is smiling a big old corporate-person smile as it scores yet another victory in the War Against People.