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Hydraulic Fracturing Has Bi-Partisan Support in Congress
July 28, 2009

Posted by Matt Dempsey matt_dempsey@epw.senate.gov

Hydraulic Fracturing Has Bi-Partisan Support in Congress

Imposing new federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing would be a "disaster," Senator Inhofe warned on the Senate floor in a speech yesterday.

In EPACT 05, Senator Inhofe successfully included a provision to clarify that hydraulic fracturing was not to be regulated by the EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act.  This was in response to a 2004 EPA report which concluded that hydraulic fracturing poses a minimal threat to underground drinking water and that no further study of the issue was warranted.

Today a small number of Congressional Democrats oppose hydraulic fracturing. As Ian Talley of the Dow Jones Newswire reported in June, U.S. lawmakers have introduced legislation that "industry warns could prevent development of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas by putting regulation of a key production technique under federal oversight." Current efforts to target hydraulic fracturing come from legislation introduced by Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., and in the Senate, by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

Yet the use of hydraulic fracturing has wide bi-partisan support.

In fact, immediately following Senator Inhofe's floor speech, Senator Dorgan (N-ND) said on the Senate Floor, "My colleague was speaking as I came to the chamber and I agree with most all of that which he described with respect to hydraulic fracturing. He's describing something that affects our ability to produce a domestic supply of energy." Sen. Dorgan added, "My colleague has said it correctly: decade after decade, no one has found any evidence that there is any contamination with hydraulic fracturing." (Watch Video)

Further, as Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK), pointed out in the Oklahoman, hydraulic fracturing had been used in an estimated 1 million wells and had not posed any problems to drinking water. In fact, approximately 35,000 wells are hydraulically fractured annually in the United States and close to one million wells have been hydraulically fractured in the United States since the technique's inception, with no known harm to groundwater. Concerning a recent push for legislation banning the practice, Boren said the regulation called for in the bill would be "disastrous for the industry," but predicted it wouldn't advance in Congress.

In Colorado, Governor Bill Ritter recognizes the value of the practice.  In the Denver Business Journal, the Governor characterized the bills pending in Congress imposing new federal regulation on hydraulic fracturing as "a new and potentially intrusive regulatory program."  Further, the Grand Junction Sentinel  recently reported a number of Colorado counties have adopted resolutions against the pending federal bills. 

States are passing their own resolutions opposing new federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing.  For example in March, the North Dakota legislature passed a concurrent resolution to not subject hydraulic fracturing to needless and new federal regulation.  North Dakota is home to the Bakken Shale where oil wells are reported to be producing thousands of barrels a day.

Even officials from the Obama administration are on record. The Wall Street Journal earlier this summer noted,  "Under Carol Browner, currently President Barack Obama's energy and climate czar, the EPA in the mid-1990s decided that federal regulation was unnecessary. ‘There is no evidence that the hydraulic fracturing at issue has resulted in any contamination or endangerment of underground sources of drinking water,' Browner wrote in 1995 as head of the EPA in a letter rejecting federal oversight of a potentially precedent-setting case in Alabama."

The fact is, as Senator Inhofe concluded in his floor remarks yesterday, "the exploration and production of these reserves using hydraulic fracturing have been regulated by states and conducted safely for 60 years.  The oil and gas industry contributes billions in state and federal revenues each year and billions in salaries and royalty payments.  The oil and gas industry employs 6 million people in the U.S.  When the U.S. is approaching 10% unemployment and when we want energy security and independence from foreign energy, why would we want to go out of our way to restrict an environmentally and economically sound means to extract our own resources - a means that has demonstrated effectiveness and safety for 60 years?  This session I expect Congress to consider energy legislation.  We must not impose new burdens on our exploration and production.  Instead, we must open up supplies and use our domestic resources in new and innovative ways to create jobs and a new energy economy." 

Related:

EPW FACT OF THE DAY: Liberals Take Aim at Hydraulic Fracturing

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel - Cities, Counties Oppose Legislation on Gas Fracturing

Oklahoman Editorial: Power play: Fracturing plan wrong, indefensible





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