Saying that the rules would "make sure that fracturing operations conducted on public and Indian lands follow common-sense industry best practices," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar this morning issued proposed regulations that would:
— Require "public disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations on federal lands."
— Ensure that "wells used in fracturing operations [on public lands] meet appropriate construction standards."
— Require operators to "put in place appropriate plans for managing flowback waters from fracturing operations."
As The Wall Street Journal notes, it's hoped that the rules would set "a new standard that natural-gas wells on all lands eventually could follow."
Last August, NPR's Christopher Joyce reported about the boom in "fracking" — the process of extracting natural gas by pumping millions of gallons of fluid underground to crack shale and drive the gas up to the surface. As he reported, anxiety about fracking runs deep because many people who live near such operations say their water has been ruined by the chemicals used in the process.
Some scientists say it's also possible that fracking has been causing small earthquakes in some places.
Update at 12:45 p.m. ET. Significant Compromise?
"In a significant concession to the oil industry," The New York Times writes, "companies will have to reveal the composition of fluids only after they start drilling, not before, a sharp change from the government's original proposal, which would have required disclosure of the chemicals 30 days before a well could be started."