Modern hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling techniques have opened vast sections of the United States to oil and gas development. They have also raised public concerns about the safety and potential environmental impacts of those activities. To address those concerns and to take into account modern industry practices, the BLM published a final rule in March 2015 to ensure that when those operations are undertaken on lands where a BLM permit is required, steps are taken to ensure wellbore integrity, proper waste water management, and greater transparency about the process, including information about the composition of fracturing fluids. The final rule marked the culmination of five years of tribal, public and stakeholder engagement. Implementation of the final rule is on hold pending the outcome of ongoing litigation in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal in Denver.
Regulations, Onshore Orders and Notices to Lessees
Onshore Oil and Gas Orders and the Code of Federal Regulation implement and supplement the oil and gas regulations found at 43 CFR 3160 for conducting oil and gas operations on federal and Indian lands.
Order No. 1 - Approval of Operations: This Order provides procedures for submitting an Application for Permit To Drill and all required approvals of subsequent well operations and other lease operations.
Order No. 2 - Drilling: This Order provides requirements and standards for drilling and abandonment.
43 CFR 3173, which replaces Order 3, establishes standards to ensure that oil and gas are properly and securely handled to prevent theft and loss, and to enable accurate measurement and production accountability.
43 CFR 3174, which replaces Order 4, establishes minimum standards for the accurate measurement of all oil.
43 CFR 3175, which replaces Order 5, establishes minimum standards for the accurate measurement of gas.
Order No. 6 - Hydrogen Sulfide Operations: This Order provides the requirements and standards for conducting oil and gas operations in an environment known to or expected to contain hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas.
Order No. 7 - Disposal of Produced Waters: This Order provides the methods and approvals necessary to dispose of produced water associated with oil and gas operations.
National Notices to Lessees (NTLs)
NTL 4A: Royalty or Compensation for Oil and Gas Lost. This notice is slated to be replaced by a regulation to prevent the waste of methane from natural gas and oil wells.
Ongoing Regulatory Efforts
Some of the BLM’s regulations date to the 1980s and have not kept up with the way companies operate and how the equipment they use. Good government agencies such as the Government Accountability Office and the Department of the Interior's Inspector General, among others, have suggested updates to these rules, which are under way.
In order to reduce the wasteful release of natural gas into the atmosphere from oil and gas operations on public and American Indian lands, the BLM has proposed a rule covering the venting and flaring of gas. The proposed rule on venting, flaring and leaking will help curb waste of our nation’s natural gas supplies, reduce harmful methane emissions and provide a fair return on public resources for federal taxpayers, Tribes, and States.