Inhofe: Democrats Add Hydraulic Fracturing Provision into Spill Bill
July 29, 2010

Posted by Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov

Democrats Add Hydraulic Fracturing Provision into Spill Bill

Transcript 

Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, first, let me state that I have a great deal of respect for my friend from Ohio. I cannot agree, however, with the things this administration has done to pull us out of the recession. A lot of people believe the Federal Government can do that. I look at the institutions, and I say to the Chair, I have people who come into my office and it doesn't matter what industry they are in, they are all scared to death. It is a mentality that the Federal Government can take these things over and somehow make them better.

This administration is attacking every institution that made this country great right now. I don't care if you are in banking, insurance, health care, or the oil businesses--all of them are under attack. There is a myth out there that if the Federal Government takes it over, it will be run better than it would when run by the private sector. That is a prelude for the thoughts I want to share concerning what happened last night after 10 o'clock.

The majority leader, Senator Reid, came out with a type of energy bill, I suppose you could say. He has been talking about an energy bill for quite some time. What I have seen in the bill that is called an energy bill--I can't speak too specifically about it, because it didn't come out until late last night. But we know this: First, they start off by taking off any liability cap on drilling, whether it is in the gulf or elsewhere. That is my understanding.

The problem we have--and some of the people in this Chamber might remember that I had occasion to come to the floor and object to the Menendez request about four different times in the last month, because what he was attempting to do is what this bill is suggesting--take all liability caps off. If you do that, something happens that is bad. I hope that is not the intent of the authors of the bill that came out last night. But what you do by taking the cap off is you limit who is going to be able--once the moratorium is lifted--to drill offshore to the giants.

We have five big oil companies--the big of the bigs--and everybody is talking about BP, the one responsible for the most devastating spill in our history. If you take the cap off, that allows the BPs and the nationally owned oil companies to drill. In other words, we have independents all over America that have the capability and are providing jobs in the gulf, to all the Gulf States. If you come along and, all of a sudden, say you cannot do it now because you cannot comply with this, there is a serious problem.

We have a solution to that, where oil companies would be putting into a fund--some of you might remember, 20 years ago, the Exxon Valdez oilspill. I remember going up there 20 years ago. That was a devastating thing. We are still feeling the damage that came from that spill. When I got there, something interesting was happening. The far-left environmentalists, who wanted to shut down all kinds of drilling all over America and elsewhere, were up there celebrating. I said: What are you celebrating? They said: We are going to parlay this spill--20 years ago--into stopping drilling on the North Slope. I said: Why would we do that?

That was a transportation accident. If you remember, that was a ship that came in carrying oil from foreign countries. They had the accident, and we had the devastating spill. But if you stop us from developing our own domestic resources, we are going to have to transport more oil from other countries. The incident of a potential oilspill would be much greater if we are transporting that much. They said: We are going to do it anyway.

I saw the same thing when the oilspill took place a few months ago in the gulf. All the people down there were almost celebrating, saying: We are going to parlay this into stopping all oil production offshore, and maybe even beyond that. That is essentially what the far left wants to do.

Here we have this bill that came out last night, which takes the caps off so that the only ones left--I call this the big oil bill. If we were to pass what came out of the majority leader's office last night, it would only allow giant oil companies, and maybe nationalized ones, to do the drilling. This is a huge thing.

The statement I am making--by the way, I have to quote someone I don't often agree with, and that is Carol Browner, the head of the EPA during the Clinton administration, and now the environmental czar in this administration. She said:

So it will mean [talking about this subject] that you only have large companies in this sector, but maybe this is a sector where you really need large companies who can bring to bear the expertise and who have the wherewithal to cover the expense if something goes wrong.

She is saying that only big oil and China should be able to produce in the gulf. The problem with this is, everybody understands--certainly those Senators, Democrats and Republicans, from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida all understand what the problem is here in terms of jobs. If you stop the independents from producing out in the gulf, it not only makes us more dependent upon foreign countries, or our ability to run this machine called America, but it does away with jobs.

The IHS Global Insight came out with a study that said if you do this, the gulf region would lose over 300,000 jobs by 2020. That is the IHS Global Insight. People don't argue with their credibility.

This is probably one of the biggest job loss bills we could have. I don't think it will pass, but if it did, that would be the problem.

I am going to address one more thing in this bill, and that is the technique of hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing is a system whereby they go down--here is the aquifer here, 400 or 500 feet below the surface, and about 2 miles down--they drill down through that and use the hydraulic fracturing in order to get the close formation of oil and gas so they can produce that. Without that, they say--and I think nobody disagrees with this--we are not going to be able to produce natural gas. Everybody is talking about natural gas and how we are going to need more and more of it, how we would develop our potential and the shale potential particularly, and we can do away with having to be dependent upon countries such as Venezuela and countries in the Middle East for our ability to run the machine called America. So we have this methodology called hydraulic fracturing. The first hydraulic fracturing was done in 1949 in my State of Oklahoma. That is 60 years ago. There has never been one incident of contamination of water since that happened.

I am going to show you this. This is not me saying this; this is the EPA Administrator, Carol Browner:

There is no evidence that the hydraulic fracturing at issue has resulted in any contamination or endangerment of underground sources of drinking water.

Ever. Again, that is Carol Browner. This gives you an idea of where all this shale is. If you look at this--and I remember talking about hydraulic fracturing at some length some time ago, and Senator Dorgan, from North Dakota, came in and said he agreed with everything that Inhofe said. Obviously, this is Bakken shale up here. This chart shows the extremely large potential all over the country. Last July, I addressed the Senate for 30 minutes on this invaluable technique to access natural gas and oil reserves throughout the country.

While the country is at nearly 10-percent unemployment, access to these reserves means good news for jobs. I provided some examples of the thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in royalties, State tax revenues, and economic activity shale plays, such as the Barnett shale in Texas, Woodford shale in Oklahoma and Arkansas, and Haynesville shale in Louisiana and, as you can see, all over America on this map.

People are talking about big oil or oil in some negative context. There are hundreds of thousands of royalty owners around the country who would be shut down if we try to close down this methodology called hydraulic fracturing. This 60-year-old technique has been responsible for 7 billion barrels of oil and 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The National Petroleum Council reports that 60 to 80 percent of all wells in the next 10 years will require hydraulic fracturing to remain productive and profitable. In other words, it is almost all of them that will require hydraulic fracturing to be competitive.

In Oklahoma, we should know. The first hydraulic fracturing was near Duncan, OK, in 1949. Very simply, it is the temporary injection of mostly water with sand, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and other additives to fracture and prop open a ground formation to improve the flow of oil and natural gas through rock pores and increase oil and gas production. Ninety-five percent of the fluid is water, and 99 percent is water and sand.

New reports over the last 2, 3 years reveal some of the highest totals ever of natural gas in the United States. These reports demonstrate that at 2 quadrillion cubic feet of current demand, we have enough natural gas for us to keep America going for the next 100 years. That is the significance of this. If you do this and do away with that process--hydraulic fracturing--that will shut it down. So we are talking about now we have the potential to supply enough natural gas to run this country for the next hundred years. That is how significant this is.

Due to new natural gas shale plays all over the country, new studies demonstrate recoverable reserves of natural gas to meet the current demand for at least the next hundred years.

By the way, a report that came out shows that the United States is No. 1 in terms of recoverable reserves. We are talking about gas, natural gas, oil, and coal.

Some Democrats may argue that this section 4301 is only a disclosure provision of the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process. That is not true. State regulators have safely and effectively regulated hydraulic fracturing for the past 60 years, as was stated by Carol Browner. State rules, such as in my State of Oklahoma, require disclosure of chemicals. What this provision is about is a new EPA Federal control. Somehow this administration thinks that if the Federal Government isn't running something--this is an obsession, where the Federal Government has to run everything. When I was mayor of Tulsa, we had a guy, a police commissioner, and he had a saying that ``if it ain't broke, don't fix it.'' This hasn't been broken once in 60 years. At a press conference, somebody talked about, well, didn't this happen in Nevada once? Well, I have no record--neither does Carol Browner--that there has been contamination as a result of hydraulic fracturing.

Proponents of this language argue that it is needed because fracking contaminates groundwater. As the ranking member of the Environment and Publics Works Committee, I have asked the USGS and the EPA's Assistant Administrators for both the Enforcement Office and the Water Office in testimony in front of the Environment and Public Works Committee whether they are aware of any documented case of water contamination due to hydraulic fracturing. They could not name one. That is because there isn't any.

These officials are not alone in this opinion. President Obama's energy czar agrees with me. In 1995, as EPA Administrator, Carol Browner wrote in response to litigation that Federal regulation is not necessary for hydraulic fracturing. She correctly made the point that the practice was closely regulated by the States and that ``EPA is not legally required to regulate hydraulic fracturing.'' Most importantly, she further wrote that there was ``no evidence that hydraulic fracturing resulted in any drinking water contamination'' in the litigation involved. We are talking about something that is not broken.

It clearly is necessary for us to get all of this out to run this machine called America. As we can see, this is not a partisan Republican issue; Democrats alike understand the importance of hydraulic fracturing.

When I spoke on the floor last July, as I mentioned, Senator Dorgan from North Dakota followed my comments saying that he agreed with my assessment that not only is fracking needed to access new reserves, such as the ones in the Bakken shale in North Dakota, but that he is not aware of any groundwater contamination from the practice. I appreciate the fact that he is outspoken in this area.

It is also extremely important to point out that Congress has already tasked EPA in law to study the effects of any hydraulic fracturing on water quality and public health. The EPA has already begun using $4.3 million for this effort, which is being led by Dr. Robert Puls, who works in EPA's Groundwater Research Laboratory based in Ada, OK. I encourage this study. We know there has not been any problem. I want to make sure we can put the final nail in this coffin, that people somehow think hydraulic fracturing contaminates water. This is a way to do an independent study. Let the government study it.

This bill was drafted last night at 10 o'clock in spite of the fact that we do not have any results back from that study. Even if one wanted to believe so badly and did believe this is a problem, let's at least wait for the study before composing new legislation.

Natural gas development brings billions in private investment and millions of jobs to America. This country cannot afford to limit the production of its domestic energy resources due to unfounded rumors of environmental damage and the usual hysterical claims from extremist environmental organizations looking for the next crusade because cap and trade is dead.

Let me repeat that. It was 13 months ago that I made a statement from this podium that for the next 12 months, people are going to say: We are going to pass some cap-and-trade legislation.

I said: We are not going to because it is dead. How many people, particularly the newly elected Senators, want to go back to their States and say: Aren't you proud of me? I voted for the largest tax increase in the history of America. That would be cap and trade.

Cap and trade is dead. Yesterday, the White House made some kind of statement that if we can get something thrown into conference and then have a lameduck session after all these faces have changed, we are going to try it again. It is not going to work. It is dead.

Let's look at what came out last night and study it. We have not had time to do that. We have not seen the exact language yet. It was not drafted until 10 o'clock last night. When they come to the point where they say they are going to do something to change hydraulic fracturing, that would be critical. That is one thing that would kill the development and production of natural gas to run this machine called America.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

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