* New rules will be based on the best science -Jewell
* Department "very close" to issuing new fracking rules
* Arctic drilling rules expected by end of the year
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, May 7 The Obama administration's
second attempt at writing regulations for hydraulic fracturing
on public lands is not intended to appease either
environmentalists or oil and gas drillers, Interior Secretary
Sally Jewell said on Tuesday.
Jewell told lawmakers at a Senate Appropriations
subcommittee hearing that the department was "very close" to
unveiling the rules and reiterated a recent comment that the
rules would be out in "weeks, not months."
Jewell was also pressed about the department's plans to
issue regulations for offshore drilling in the Arctic.
The Interior Department faced heat from green groups and
industry a year ago, when it unveiled its initial proposal to
update decades-old fracking regulations. Energy trade groups
argued the rules were onerous while greens said they did not go
far enough to protect the public.
Eventually, the department, then led by Ken Salazar,
scrapped the proposals and went back to the drawing board.
Environmentalists have raised concerns the new regulations may
be too accommodating of drillers, however.
"The fracking rules are not bowing to industry pressure or
environmental pressure," Jewell told reporters after her first
hearing since assuming the top post at Interior in April.
Jewell said the proposed regulations would use the "best
science" and take into account modern technologies and
practices. The former oil company engineer noted that she had
"fracked a well before."
The initial draft rules included new reporting standards and
a requirement that companies reveal chemicals they use in
fracking only after they complete drilling.
Advances in drilling techniques, including fracking, have
unlocked vast reserves of shale oil and gas and put the United
States on a path to energy self-sufficiency.
But some communities near new hubs of drilling activity have
complained that the development may be threatening water
supplies and polluting the air, and has inadequate oversight.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves injecting water,
sand and chemicals underground at high pressure to extract fuel.
Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, pressed Jewell
on the outlook for offshore drilling regulations in the Arctic.
Royal Dutch Shell abandoned plans to drill in the
Arctic this year after facing a number of setbacks in 2012,
including the dramatic grounding of a drillship while it was
being towed south for the winter.
ConocoPhillips shelved plans to explore for oil in
the Arctic in 2014 as well, citing regulatory uncertainty.
Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes said the department
expects to propose regulations by year-end that would mirror the
requirements set forth in Shell's approved exploration plans.
Hayes told reporters that any delay in finalizing the rules
would not affect companies' drilling plans as long as they
agreed to meet the minimum standards that were set forth when
Shell made its attempt to drill in 2012.