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WATCH: EPA Stresses the Importance of States' Role in Regulating Hydraulic Fracturing
February 4, 2011

Posted by Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov

WATCH: EPA Stresses the Importance of States' Role in Regulating Hydraulic Fracturing

 

 

During a hearing on Wednesday in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, EPA Administrator Jackson, when asked about EPA's study on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on water quality and public health, provided helpful clarity on how the essential practice is currently regulated. 

Senator Inhofe welcomed Administrator Jackson's observation that states are already regulating hydraulic fracturing-a fact that anti-production activists either ignore or deliberately obscure in their efforts to ban it.  As Administrator Jackson stated: "I want to make two points on hydraulic fracturing: One is that it is not an unregulated activity; many localities, many states regulate aspects of the drilling process. One thing I think EPA can do to add to the body of knowledge is to determine where there are any holes in that regulatory structure."

Jackson also admirably demurred on the question of whether federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing is necessary: "It's not necessarily federal regulation that will be needed, it could be, I'm not prejudging that." 

Jackson acknowledged the inherent difficulties of imposing a one-size-fits-all federal regulation on fracking, as she noted that "states are different, geology is different, the number of people and population density are different..."

Administrator Jackson pledged to work closely with Senator Inhofe to ensure EPA's hydraulic fracturing study is based on the best available science.  The Department of Energy/GWPC study shows that federal regulations would be "costly, duplicative of state regulations, and ultimately ineffective because such regulations would be too far removed from field operations."  The study also found that doing away with fracking could increase the environmental footprint of production, as the "only alternative...in reservoirs with low permeability such as shale would be to simply have to drill more wells."

Senator Inhofe has been a leading voice in Washington against empowering federal bureaucrats to step over and replace state regulators, who have been overseeing fracking safely and competently for decades. 

Full Transcript

Senator Inhofe: I know there is an effort out there to start regulating hydraulic fracturing.  Not many people realize that with the huge reserves that we have-and the United States does have the largest recoverable reserves in coal, oil, and natural gas of any country in the world-that this particular technology has been used since 1948 of hydraulic fracturing is something (and I know this because in 1948 it started in my state of Oklahoma) that there's not been a case, documented case of groundwater contamination using hydraulic fracturing.  If we are to develop the shale particularly of any of these close formations it has to be done.  One hundred percent of these recoverable reserves can only become a reality if we are using certain techniques, number one would be that of hydraulic fracturing.  So I'd like to have you and the request I'd make of you (any response you want to make now of course would be fine) but also any further investigation into that technique I want to be a part of it and perhaps I can offer some expertise from personal experience from our experience in Oklahoma.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson: Senator, we look forward to working with you.  On hydraulic fracturing we are about to round up our work plan which has gone through peer review and public comment.  We expect in the next month or two to have the work plan for our study finished.  I want to make two points on hydraulic fracturing: One is that it is not an unregulated activity; many localities, many states regulate aspects of the drilling process. One thing I think EPA can do to add to the body of knowledge is to determine where there are any holes in that regulatory structure. It's not necessarily federal regulation that will be needed, it could be, I'm not prejudging that.  The second thing I will say is that I think what will give the American people comfort with all that they're seeing about this technology is a knowledge that regulators are not backing away from looking at it but rather are doing everything we can to understand and ensure we have good science.

Senator Inhofe: And that you would take into consideration those regulations that come from the states because of the varying applications of this technology from state to state.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson: Certainly Sir, and states are different, geology is different, the number of people and population density are different, but there may be a need for a federal role.  We simply don't know and the study will take a while. 

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