Posted by Katie Brown

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The Hill Op Ed

Federal interference in energy development regulation a bad idea

By Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.)

July 19, 2011

Link to Op Ed 

The United States reached an extraordinary milestone in 2009: A flood of domestic natural gas production propelled America past Russia to become the world's largest producer of natural gas. But considering the Obama administration's aggressive anti-fossil-fuel agenda, how could this possibly have occurred?

Two key reasons stand out: First, American ingenuity combined cutting-edge, horizontal drilling technologies with advancements in hydraulic fracturing to allow producers to tap America's truly massive natural gas shale deposits. But more importantly, these immense shale deposits are predominantly located in areas of the country where the states - not the federal government - primarily regulate oil and gas development. In such states as Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan and North Dakota, a virtual boom in natural gas and oil development is transforming America's energy outlook, all thanks to the absence of federal red tape.

But unfortunately, this lack of federal control has not gone unnoticed by the Obama administration and the environmental lobby. Looking to reverse America's newfound status as the world's natural gas powerhouse, many on the left now are pressing a sympathetic Obama administration to flex its regulatory muscles and expand its reach over hydraulic fracturing, a practice that for decades has been effectively and efficiently regulated by states.

Lately, President Obama has been touting the virtues of natural gas - but don't be fooled: Without question, his administration is working actively to shut down fossil-fuel development, and natural gas is no exception. Just take a look at his "green team," which has included such outspoken fossil-fuel opponents as Carol Browner and Van Jones. In a speech in March at Georgetown, Obama said he would be putting Energy Secretary Steven Chu in charge of hydraulic fracturing policy. This is the same secretary who, speaking a year ago at Georgetown, said "we are going to have some regulation on that."

Now the president has chosen Rebecca Wodder, a staunch critic of hydraulic fracturing, to be the assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks for the Department of the Interior. Ms. Wodder recently said hydraulic fracturing "has a nasty track record of creating a toxic chemical soup that pollutes groundwater and streams, threatening public health and wildlife."

But this is clearly not the case. Since the first use of hydraulic fracturing - in 1949 in my home state of Oklahoma - producers have completed more than 1.5 million fracturing jobs without one confirmed case of groundwater contamination from these fracked formations.

Not only is hydraulic fracturing thoroughly regulated by states, the practice has allowed for jobs and dollars to stay on American soil and in American pockets. In fact, as was recently reported in The Oklahoman, my state's 2.5 percent growth in personal income ranked fifth in the nation in the first quarter of 2011. Instead of working to expand federal reach, the president should look to the states, which showcase that economic growth and job creation can coexist with effective environmental protection.

Even Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), a Democrat, said in April at an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing that we could learn from such states as Colorado and Oklahoma that "have taken aggressive action to protect the public health of their citizens."

Calls for federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing are not based on any credible threat to drinking water. This is all part of Obama's war on affordable energy, an effort to regulate fossil fuels out of existence. Without hydraulic fracturing, not one cubic foot of shale gas would be commercially producible. If the president is successful, he will be responsible for the loss of hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs and for the elimination of shale gas as a source of abundant, secure, reliable and affordable energy.

Inhofe is the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.