Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-9797
Katie Brown Katie_Brown@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-2160
Inhofe: Obama EPA's Draft Permitting Guidance for Diesel Fuel the Second Attempt Today to Target Hydraulic Fracturing
Washington, D.C. - Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said that the Obama EPA's Draft Permitting Guidance for Diesel Fuel, released this afternoon, is the second Administration announcement today in a recent barrage of federal efforts designed to stunt hydraulic fracturing by putting more and more authority over the process into the hands of the federal government.
"Once again, the Obama EPA has released a plan they know few will like at a time they hope no one will notice: EPA's draft permitting guidance for diesel fuel is the second attempt today to put forth rules that will severely hinder hydraulic fracturing, and therefore the development of America's vast natural resources," Senator Inhofe said. "While I continue to look further into this proposed guidance, my initial concern is that since Congress gave EPA very narrow optional authority over 'diesel fuel' under the Underground Injection Control (UIC) program, any attempt by EPA to broaden that definition increases the chance that the federal government can step in to stifle hydraulic fracturing. At first glance, this appears to be exactly what EPA's guidance is designed to do.
"Of course, in the face of strong bipartisan opposition to EPA's plan to improperly expand the definition, EPA opted to move forward using guidance, which allows the agency to sidestep congressional and legal oversight. Just as with their Clean Water Act jurisdictional guidance, what this administration couldn't achieve through legislation, it is trying to achieve through guidance.
"Especially in the wake of the Armendariz's crucifixion scandal, EPA needs to reevaluate its decisions to move forward with these power grabs; even the Washington Post said today that 'the EPA is earning a reputation for abuse.' It's time for EPA finally to restore balance in its regulatory process."
Prior to the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, EPA itself acknowledged that the Safe Drinking Water Act was never intended to regulate hydraulic fracturing. According to the agency "The UIC Program is responsible for regulating the construction, operation, permitting, and closure of injection wells that place fluids underground for storage or disposal" - hydraulic fracturing is not a process of fluid injection for storage or disposal.
Last December, Senator Inhofe, along with Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) and Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) sent a bipartisan letter to the EPA to express concern about the approach the agency was taking to regulate hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) when diesel fuel is used. The Senators said that EPA's plan could have serious effects on states' primacy as well as create burdensome permitting requirements that could have widespread implications for oil and gas development across the country.
Hydraulic fracturing is excluded from EPA regulation under the UIC Program of the Safe Drinking Water Act, except when diesel fuel is used. After deciding last year to pursue new federal regulations, the agency raised several red flags about how it was choosing to proceed.
The bipartisan letter implored EPA to proceed carefully, in an open and transparent manner, as it contemplates greater federal regulation of diesel fuel used in hydraulic fracturing operations. The Senators also requested that EPA consider input from all stakeholders to ensure that any new regulations do not unnecessarily harm the nation's energy producers.
With the release of its draft guidance today, it appears that EPA may not have taken the concerns of this bipartisan group of Senators seriously.