On Wednesday, July 11, 2012, the California Valley Miwok Tribe met with Mr. Christopher Lloyd, BLM Archaeologist, Mr. Richard Estabrook, Petroleum Engineer, Mr. Gary Sharp, the Ukiah Field Office Associate Field Manager and Ms. Charlotte Hunter, PhD, BLM CA State Office/Deputy Preservation Officer; representatives from the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management Ukiah Field Office (Ukiah, California) and the BLM State Office (Sacramento, California). The meeting was held at the CVMT Tribal Offices located at 10601 N. Escondido PL, Stockton, CA.
CVMT received an invitation from both the BLM Ukiah Field Office and the BLM State Office to consult about the drilling method known as “hydraulic fracturing” (fracking) and about the new proposed regulations on this procedure. The meeting was set to exchange information between BLM and the California Valley Miwok Tribe. The Bureau of Land Management addressed what hydraulic fracturing is, why it is being done, what the problems are, how they are being addressed, and also discussed the proposed ongoing development of regulations governing hydraulic fracturing procedures.
The BLM oversees approximately 700 million subsurface acres of Federal mineral estate and 56 million subsurface acres of Indian mineral estate across the United States and is proposing a rule to regulate hydraulic fracturing on public land and Indian land. The new hydraulic fracturing method will modernize management of well stimulation activities and implementation of the proposed regulations will ensure that fracturing operations conducted on the public mineral estate (including split estate where the Federal Government owns the subsurface mineral estate) will now have certain guidelines to follow in using the fracturing method to drill in the most responsible way possible.
‘Hydraulic fracturing,” is a process used to stimulate production from oil and gas wells where previous methods left much of the product unattainable. The extension of the practice has caused public concern about whether fracturing can allow or cause the contamination of underground water sources, whether the chemicals used in fracturing should be disclosed to the public, and whether there is adequate management of well integrity and the “flowback” fluids that return to the surface during and after fracturing operations. A draft rule was published in the Federal Register on May 11, 2012.
Among other things, the BLM is considering requiring oil and gas operators to 1.) Publicly disclose all chemicals used during the stimulation of a well by fracturing 2.) Submit information to the BLM to confirm wellbore integrity before, during, and 3.) Track and account for the fluids from the well after hydraulic fracturing operations.
Summary: BLM proposes 1.) The public disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations on Federal lands; 2.) Confirmation that wells used in fracturing operations meet appropriate construction standards; and 3.) A requirement that operators put in place appropriate plans for managing flowback waters from fracturing operations. BLM proposes to apply the same rules and standards to Indian lands so that these lands and communities receive the same level of protection provided for public lands.
Some states have started requiring similar disclosures and oversight for oil and gas drilling operations under their own jurisdiction. This proposal seeks to create a consistent oversight and disclosure model that will work in concert with other regulators’ requirements while protecting Federal and tribal interests and resources. The BLM proposes these changes to existing well stimulation oversight partly in response to recommendations put forward by the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board in 2011. Also, current BLM regulations governing hydraulic fracturing operations on public lands are more than 30 years old and thus do not adequately address modern hydraulic fracturing methods.
The California Valley Miwok Tribe, being a Custom and Tradition Miwok tribe is very protective of the natural resources in California, especially drinking water. CVMT opposes the “fracking” process, but understands that the practice will continue, therefore, CVMT is in support of the efforts of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to put more accountability on companies whom use the hydraulic fracturing method to further stimulate production from oil and gas wells.
The Tribe would like to thank Mr. Christopher Lloyd, BLM Archaeologist, Mr. Richard Estabrook, Petroleum Engineer, Mr. Gary Sharp, the Ukiah Field Office Associate Field Manager, Ms. Charlotte Hunter, PhD, BLM CA State Office/Deputy Preservation Officer from the BLM State Office (Sacramento, California) – and a special thank you to BLM Representatives, Mr. Rich Burns, Field Office Manager(Ukiah Office), Mr. Jim Schrivner, Deputy State Director Division of Energy and Minerals; Mr. Bill Haigh, Mother Lode Field Office and Mr. Jim Stockbridge, Trust Liaison Officer, Denver Federal Center, Denver Colorado.