Inhofe Reminds Feds that States are in Charge of Hydraulic Fracturing

Last month Energy Department Secretary Steven Chu directed the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) — specifically its Natural Gas Subcommittee — to “make recommendations to improve the safety and environmental performance of natural gas hydraulic fracturing from shale formations.” Those recommendations, according to the official memo sent by Steven Chu on May 5th (PDF), will eventually be shared with the Department of Interior and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

But as U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) points out in a recent letter to Secretary Chu, the U.S. Department of Energy has stated that it is “not engaged in regulating [hydraulic fracturing],” and the task laid out for the SEAB “does not include making decisions about regulatory policy,” according to Chu’s official May 5th memo. “Based on these statements,” Senator Inhofe writes in his letter to Chu, “can you confirm that any report issued by DOE pursuant to this announcement will not include recommendations relating to the regulation of the hydraulic fracturing process, or any components thereof, whether by DOE or any other Federal agency?”

The question is an important one: Any attempt to sway the opinions of the EPA (or Interior) toward regulating hydraulic fracturing at the federal level would not only compromise the ongoing research inside the EPA regarding this crucial well stimulation procedure, but also upend the incredibly efficient state-based regulation that already exists. Inhofe references this last point directly, noting in his letter that many in Washington are attempting to “expand federal regulatory and permitting power to supplant State authority.”

State regulators, meanwhile, overwhelmingly believe that hydraulic fracturing is environmentally safe and effectively regulated at the state level.

You can read Inhofe’s entire letter by clicking here (PDF).

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