Interior Secretary tours Bakken oil production facilities on fact-finding mission

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell recently toured oil production facilities in North Dakota to see the results of the fracking revolution firsthand.

At the invitation of North Dakota's two U.S. Senators, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell recently went on a tour of the booming oilfields in North Dakota's Bakken formation.

The trip was far more than a publicity stunt, as the Department of the Interior (DOI) is currently working on new regulations to control the use of hydraulic fracturing—the technology underlying the Bakken boom—on federal land. Furthermore, as a former petroleum engineer Jewell has a good deal of expertise on the subject of oil production equipment.

"She can ask the tough questions that need to be asked but also understand and appreciate the technology," Senator Heidi Heitkamp told reporters following Jewell's visit to the state. "You don't need to explain that to her, she gets it."

Jewell did ask a substantial number of questions during her tour, but she tried to refrain from taking an adversarial approach during her talks with industry stakeholders, according to National Journal contributor Amy Harder.

During a set of opening remarks delivered in a warehouse next to a drilling rig, Jewell emphasized the fact that she had personally participated in the fracking of wells early in her career when she worked as a petroleum engineer. She also offered her congratulations to Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm, whose company is a major player in the Bakken.

"You're a pioneer," Jewell said to Hamm before a small crowd of government officials, industry insiders and reporters.

While it is unclear exactly what shape the DOI's final rules for fracking on federal land will take, the department's Bureau of Land Management recently made several changes to its proposed regulatory framework that would grant companies more flexibility in the protocols they use for drill stem testing.