With New System, Obama Admin to Approve Fracking & Drilling Operations in 1/3rd the Time

Mark van Laere/CC BY-ND 2.0

Fuel Fix reports that the Obama administration is again working to help out its foes in the oil industry. That pesky review process designed to safeguard the public and the environment just got easier and speedier, thanks to an automated system being implemented by the federal government:

The changes to be announced Tuesday build on work to speed review of drilling permits in the Bureau of Land Management’s offices in Montana and North and South Dakota, which have been swarmed with applications for new wells.

Although the moves would apply to drilling nationwide, they are significant for exploration in the West, where companies are using horizontal drilling techniques and hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and natural gas from dense rock formations.

Now, this isn't necessarily out-and-out bad news, and it doesn't necessarily mean that the new review process will be worse or more prone to letting dangerous projects go through than the currently standing one. But there is some reason for concern. Let's start here: "Modeled after an approach used for offshore drilling applications and piloted in the Bureau of Land Management’s Carsbad field office, the move could slash the amount of time it takes the government to process oil and gas permits by two-thirds, down from an average of 298 days."

Most of us are well acquainted with the efficacy of those offshore drilling regulations; the BP spill is the most glaring example of their insufficiency. So questions certainly need to be asked about the ability of any new system, flooded with an enormous volume of applications, to successfully flag potentially dangerous operations.

But the main concern should be that this system will greatly reduce the time it takes for oil and gas companies using fracking to get their drills into the ground. Fracking operations are still not sufficiently understood by regulators, nor are they nearly transparent enough—the chemical cocktails blasted into the ground remain veiled corporate secrets. The new, speedier review process may unleash a bevy of new fracking projects that pose dangers to communities and the environment that aren't properly accounted for. And by the time we better understand the full impacts of fracking, the damage may already have been done.

Tags: Barack Obama | Oil