House Panel Discusses Importance of Hydraulic Fracturing in Securing America’s Energy Future
As more and more communities across the country are positioning themselves to take advantage of the “ocean of natural gas” trapped in shale formations thousands of feet below the water table, members of the House Natural Resources energy subcommittee heard from an impressive panel of experts today underscoring the key role that hydraulic fracturing will play in making those resources a reality.
During an insightful and at times heated hearing this afternoon, several members of the panel – made up of state energy regulators, energy producers, groundwater protection officials, and an environmental consultant – described the comprehensive efforts being made at the state level to ensure responsible natural gas development is done in a way that protects our nation’s drinking water supply. Unfortunately, even as those descriptions were supported by data, experience and a 60-year track-record of safety, several members of the committee refused to acknowledge the critical work being done by these regulators in their own states – even questioning their competency along the way.
But the hearing did result in the breaking of some real news: Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) declared that she and Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) will be reintroducing legislation next week that would destroy the current state-federal regulatory partnership on hydraulic fracturing, and allow the EPA full regulatory authority to decide where we frac, when we frac, and if we can even frac at all. More troubling, though, was how she characterized the bill – refusing to acknowledge the fact that the elimination of hydraulic fracturing as a viable well-stimulation tool is the clear objective of her legislation.
Rep. Dan Boren, an Oklahoma Democrat, whose district is home to thousands of energy industry related jobs, was outspoken about the economic damage that will inevitably attend an EPA-drive, one-size-fits-all approach to regulating hydraulic fracturing. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) was also vocal in his support for state regulators and the systems they’ve put in place over the past 50 years to preserve and protect usable groundwater supplies. Mr. Gohmert, who represents a large portion of the Barnett Shale region in east Texas, spoke to the damaging effects Ms. DeGette’s legislation would ultimately have on his district and regional economies across the nation.
The facts were clearly on his side. Recent analysis conducted by the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) and the U.S. Department of Energy suggest “fracking is essential to shale gas production,” “has significantly boosted U.S. gas output” and that “the Energy Information Administration estimates these unconventional resources could make the United States virtually self sufficient in natural gas supply by 2030.”
Still, opponents of responsible energy development are well-organized and, in this case, know exactly what they want. In today’s Wichita Eagle, Ed Cross, president of Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association, said: “Basically, what these environmental groups are saying is that no law but federal law can regulate the oil and gas industry. But the states have done a good job of regulating the industry. They’re the ones closest to the scene, the ones on the ground.”
And prior to today’s hearing, Energy in Depth policy director Lee Fuller said: “As the campaign to curtail the responsible development of America’s abundant energy resources ramps up, and efforts are made to achieve that end by targeting hydraulic fracturing, today’s hearing introduced some important facts to this debate that ought to be considered. Among the most important: that hydraulic fracturing is safe, that it’s well-regulated, and that it’s an essential, non-negotiable tool in bringing massive reserves of shale gas to American consumers.”