New U.S. Fracking Rules Earn Disdain from Both Sides

ENVIRONMENT

No sooner had the Interior Department released new fracking rules for public lands than industry groups announced a lawsuit to halt what they called “a reaction to unsubstantiated concerns.” (Nat Geo Great Energy Challenge blog)

Use our activity to understand hydraulic fracturing.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

Discussion Ideas
Read through our activity “Extracting Natural Gas from Shale,” and its collection of linked websites, to help answer the following questions.

 

 

Read more about directional drilling and other extraction techniques in our encyclopedic entries on oil, oil shale, and natural gas. Illustration courtesy National Energy Technology Laboratory

Read more about directional drilling and other extraction techniques in our encyclopedic entries on oil, oil shale, and natural gas.
Illustration courtesy National Energy Technology Laboratory

 

  • According to the Nat Geo Great Energy Challenge blog, the oil and gas industry objects to the new BLM fracking rules. Why?
    • According to the blog, the industry is objecting for two main reasons.
      • First, the new rules require that companies disclose the chemicals used in their drilling fluids. Companies claim that the components of drilling fluids are trade secrets. Trade secrets are data that give each company a competitive edge. (The most famous fluid-related trade secret, for instance, is probably the formula for Coca-Cola.) Forcing oil companies to reveal trade secrets about the chemicals in their drilling fluids will hurt business, companies say.
      • Second, oil companies say the BLM rules are redundant. There are already rules in place at the state and regional level that duplicate the new federal rules.

 

  • According to the Nat Geo Great Energy Challenge blog, environmental groups also object to the new BLM fracking rules. Why?
    • According to the blog, groups are also objecting for two main reasons.
      • First, the rules allow companies to disclose the components of drilling fluid after the drilling is complete—and maybe not then. “Companies can get exemptions from revealing that a chemical was used during fracking if they submit an affidavit with specific information about why the material needs to be kept secret, according to the rule.” Environmental groups are concerned that the fracking process may release toxic chemicals into the soil, groundwater, or atmosphere.
      • Second, environmental groups are concerned that the new rules do not address methane leaks at drilling sites. Methane (CH4) is the primary component of natural gas, the fossil fuel extracted during fracking. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, and, leaked into the atmosphere at drilling or transportation sites, can contribute to anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming.

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Nat Geo: New U.S. Fracking Rules Earn Disdain from Both Sides—and a Lawsuit

Nat Geo: Extracting Gas from Shale

Nat Geo: How Hydraulic Fracturing Works

Nat Geo: Get to know oil, oil shale, and natural gas

Nat Geo: Mixed Results on Fracking Initiatives

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