Federal Bureau’s Rule on Fracking Violates President’s Open Data Policy

Today the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) consigned the American public to remain ill-informed about hydraulic fracturing taking place on millions of acres of public property. The Bureau’s long-awaited “fracking rule” designates FracFocus, an industry-funded data repository, as the mechanism for public disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing at oil and gas drilling sites on federal and Indian lands. The ruling also affects 58 million acres of “split-estate” lands where the BLM controls the minerals but the surface is owned by private citizens, states, or other non-Federal entities.

Besides the fact that this decision flouts the President’s own Executive Order #13642 on Open Data, why are we so concerned about how the government manages fracking data? The reason is because this decision will deprive property and homeowners, scientists, decision-makers, emergency responders, healthcare professionals, and the general public of effective access to information that is vital to investigating the environmental, social, and public health impacts of modern oil and gas drilling.

We have said this all along, but you might find it more interesting to hear our points reiterated in this fine speech by Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) who is a member of the House Natural Resources committee (whom John testified before regarding fracking and transparency only six months before).

BLM’s ruling comes less than a month after the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) and Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC), the operators of FracFocus.org, announced they would be adding new features to the system sometime in 2015. We are concerned that the federal government has no authority to ensure that FracFocus implements these proposed upgrades in a timely way that effectively addresses the serious shortcomings that we, and others, repeatedly detailed during the rulemaking process.

We have appealed repeatedly to the BLM through public comment and open letter to the Dept. of Interior officials, asking them to mandate public disclosure of this data in a manner compliant with this administration’s laudable Open Data policy. Unfortunately, designating a non-compliant, industry-funded platform as the curator and public outlet for this data flouts that policy, perpetuates obfuscation about the environmental and health impacts of the controversial “fracking” process, and will fuel continued public apprehension about oil and gas drilling.