EID Fact Check: Congressman Hinchey Talks HF on CNBC, Checks Facts at the Door
CNBC’s Cramer on EPA’s new HF study: “Even though we can’t find a single documented case of groundwater contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing, I’m concerned this could be the beginning of process that creates more regulatory hurdles for natural gas companies, and makes it more difficult to drill in the United States.”
Cramer: “Steve Heare is the EPA’s director of drinking water protection. He recently said that the states our ‘doing a good job already regulating hydraulic fracturing,’ and he added that there is no evidence to suggest the process contaminates water … He would seem to be a knowledgeable figure. He’s the drinking water protection person at the EPA.”
WASHINGTON – Now we know why they call it “Mad” Money. Yesterday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y) appeared on Jim Cramer’s CNBC financial show to discuss shale gas exploration, hydraulic fracturing, and his ongoing and very active efforts to prevent clean-burning, American made shale gas resources from being produced in New York, or anywhere else.
Actually, Rep. Hinchey disputed that characterization of his intent, offered up throughout by the host. In reality, he said, he’s just interested in “making sure that drilling occurs” and that the exploration process “is not impinged upon” – notwithstanding that his bill, known as the FRAC Act, would impede efforts to safely explore for natural gas in the very best case, and outright ban those efforts in the worst (and most plausible) case.
Keep in mind, this is the same congressman who suggested to one online writer that “very substantial economic elements,” and sinister ones at that, were involved in exploiting the shale gas revolution “for their own economic advantages.” And oh yeah, this is also the fella who once famously said: “I do not think that relying on foreign oil impacts our security. I would hope…that there might be a new approach to this whole issue and that approach would essentially mean let us import as much [energy] as we possibly can.” Yikes.
That aside, let’s see how the congressman’s latest performance holds up under an EID fact check:
“A significant portion of the Clean Water Drinking Act [sic.] was repealed in 2005. And that provision in 2005 said that people who are drilling don’t have to tell anybody what they’re putting into the ground.”
The bipartisan 2005 energy bill, supported by then Sen. Barack Obama, clarified that Congress never intended hydraulic fracturing to be regulated under Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). If Congress ever intended the SDWA to extend beyond its original scope and cover the fracturing of energy wells, it certainly had plenty of chances to make that view known.
Passed in 1974, SDWA has been amended a whopping eight separate times over the past 35 years (’74, ’77, ’79, ‘80, ‘86, ‘88, ’96, ‘05), but at no time during that extended run was the concept of regulating fracturing under the Act a significant component of the debate. And that’s true even though at the time of the bill’s passage in ‘74, fracturing had already been in commercial use for 25 years.
What’s changed in 35 years? Not a whole lot on the technological side, with the notable exception of exciting advancements in horizontal drilling techniques that allow producers today to access 10 times the energy by drilling 1/10 the number of wells.
So again: Fracturing was never regulated under SDWA – and, by that definition, could never have been granted an “exemption.” How can you be exempt from something that never covered you in the first place?Dennis Lathem, executive director of the Coalbed Methane Association of Alabama, sheds some additional light on the 2005 bipartisan legislation:
“Hydraulic fracturing has never been regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The 2005 Energy Policy Act contained language clarifying this intent. The language was necessary because a federal circuit court ruled (incorrectly in my opinion) the temporary process of hydraulic fracturing is the same as the permanent disposal of wastes underground and is therefore covered by the SDWA.
“The fact is, if the language clarifying hydraulic fracturing had not been in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, every state in the union would be in exactly the same regulatory posture as they are today, except Alabama.”
Also, click HERE to view a comprehensive timeline illustrating fracturing’s long and clear record of effective regulation.
“It was one of the drillers that put 12 homes into jeopardy [in Pennsylvania], and which caused a lot of contamination of drinking water supplies.”
PA DEP: “Responding to recent concerns expressed by residents of Dimock Township, Susquehanna County, the Department of Environmental Protection has collected dozens of water supply samples in the Carter Road area and determined that nearby gas well hydro fracturing activity has not impacted local wells.” (Release, 3/27/09)
“I don’t think what I’m doing is going to cause the drilling in New York to be hesitated in any way, or stopped or done more slowly.”
The FRAC Act could give EPA outright authority to regulate fracturing in energy-producing states, stripping states of their ability to closely and effectively regulate this technology. In an editorial entitled “Power play: Fracturing plan wrong, indefensible,” The Oklahoman writes this:
“The latest power grab is an attempt to switch regulation of hydraulic fracturing from the states to the Environmental Protection Agency. … Some believe the technique poses harm to drinking water supplies. U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, disagrees and says the regulatory shift would be “disastrous for the industry.” … Legislation has been introduced in Congress to require companies to disclose the chemicals used in the process and allow the EPA to ensure compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. This is a solution in search of a problem.” (6/15/09)
“There’s a lot of examples where drilling has caused damage to drinking water supplies.”
At a recent Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) asked senior EPA and USGS officials if “Any one of you know of one case of ground water contamination that has resulted from hydraulic fracturing?” Here are the answers:
Peter Silva (EPA Water Chief): Not that I’m aware of, no.
Sen. Inhofe: Ms. Giles?
Cynthia Giles (EPA Compliance Administrator): I understand there’s some anecdotal evidence, but I don’t know that it’s been firmly established.
Sen. Inhofe: So the answer is no, you don’t know of it.
Cynthia Giles nods.
Sen. Inhofe: Alright, Mr. Larsen?
Matthew Larsen (Assoc. Director for Water, EPA): I’ll have to respond in writing, I don’t, I’m not aware of all of our studies on that topic.
Click HERE to view this exchange online.