In a significant concession to the oil industry, the Obama administration has reversed course on new regulations for hydraulic fracturing.
Companies will, for the first time, have to reveal the composition of fluids used in the fracking process but only after they have completed drilling, instead of 30 days before a drilling well is started as the administration previously proposed.
The change to the rule followed a series of meetings at the White House with lobbyists representing oil industry trade associations and individual major producers like ExxonMobil, XTO Energy, Apache, Samson Resources and Anadarko Petroleum. The Office of Management and Budget reworked the rule to address industry concerns about overlapping state regulations and compliance costs.
Production of domestic oil and natural gas has surged in recent years as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have opened new fields and allowed renewed production from formations that had seemed depleted.
President Obama has strongly endorsed new production of domestic oil and natural gas as a boon to the economy and energy security. Under intense criticism of his energy policies from Republicans and oil industry officials alike, the president has recently eased government regulation of oil operations.
Last month he ordered the streamlining of federal regulation of natural gas drilling, while the Environmental Protection Agency revised air quality rules for oil and gas wells giving drillers extra time to comply and lowered their costs.
Industry officials praised both moves.
The Interior Department estimates that 90 percent of the 3,400 wells drilled each year on public and Indian lands use hydraulic fracturing, in which large volumes of water, sand and chemicals are injected under high pressure into shale rock formations to stimulate the flow of oil and gas.
The process has raised concerns all across the country about contamination of groundwater, well integrity and the treatment of the tainted water that flows out of wells during and after fracking operations.