March Madness: Small Group in Congress Renews Efforts That Could Cost Jobs, Undercut American Energy Security

Unable to pass the bill in the previous two sessions of Congress, or secure even a single committee hearing during that time, proponents of the so-called FRAC Act re-introduced legislation earlier this week that seeks to fundamentally re-write a 37-year-old federal statute – with an eye on assigning the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) direct authority over the regulation of hydraulic fracturing for the first time in the history of the Act, the technology, or the agency itself.

In a statement, Energy In Depth’s Lee Fuller underscored the potential impact this far-reaching, Washington-knows-best policy could have on America’s economy and job creators, as well as our nation’s energy security:

“Hydraulic fracturing is one of the most critical processes that occurs at the wellsite; it’s also among the most stringently regulated. With this technology, it’s possible that literally quadrillions of cubic feet of clean-burning natural gas can be rendered available for American consumers in the future, resources that would otherwise be too deep and diffuse to access. It’s a technology that’s been around a long time, stretching all the way back to the Truman administration. But it’s also a technology that’s never been more important to our nation’s economic and environmental future than it is today. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, it became a victim of its own success. If hydraulic fracturing weren’t as patently effective as it is, it’s tough to imagine it’d be as strangely controversial as it has become.”

And today’s Wheeling News-Register reports this on the misguided legislation:

Lee Fuller, executive director of Energy In Depth, went further than Klaber, saying the FRAC Act is “based on fundamentally incorrect information,” noting the Safe Drinking Water Act was never used to regulate fracking. “Its backers say it’s about forcing companies to disclose the composition of the … solution that’s not water and sand, even though just about every state regulatory agency in the country will attest that such information is already available,” Fuller added.

Those responsible for regulating oil and natural gas development, and fracture stimulation technologies, are in agreement with energy producers on the facts: this 60 year old technology has never impacted groundwater, thanks in large part to the industry’s commitment to protecting the environment and the common sense state regulations and laws in place. This from Oklahoma’s News On 6 (also on EID’s YouTube page):

Chesapeake Energy’s Chairman and CEO, Aubrey McClendon, said he welcomes the study. “I think the EPA will do a good job of examining it,” McClendon stated, “and if we’re doing something wrong…somehow hurting the environment and we don’t know about it, then we want to fix what we’re doing wrong.”

But McClendon said Chesapeake has hydraulically fractured formations 14,000 times since 1989, and the record shows there isn’t anything wrong.

Larry Nichols, Devon Energy Executive Chairman, agrees. “Show us one single well where hydraulic fracturing has caused any problem,” Nichols said. “I’ve said that in testimony before Congress, and no one has yet to come up with one single well where hydraulic fracturing has caused a problem, that anyone can document with any scientific accuracy.”

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has oversight of all drilling in the state, including fracking. Commissioner Bob Anthony believes the EPA study is a political scare tactic. “The facts are,” Anthony said in a written statement, “that hydraulic fracturing has been used in Oklahoma about 100,000 times in the last 60 years, with no documented cases of groundwater contamination.”

Nichols worries that the Obama administration’s goal, through the EPA study, is to wrest control of onshore drilling from the states. His fear is that they would then do to onshore drilling what they’ve done to offshore — “Shut it down,” he said.

A quick look around the U.S. at the overwhelmingly positive impacts that hydraulic fracturing – which is tightly and aggressively regulated by energy-producing states – continues to have, all of which would be jeopardized if the FRAC Act were to become law:

MT Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Western Governors Association chair, and fmr. Democratic Governors Association chair: “We’re increasing in Montana by thousands of jobs in drilling in what’s called the Bakken (Shale Formation) in eastern Montana,” the state’s Governor Brian Schweitzer told Fox News. “It is the richest geologic structure in all of the United States. Recent estimates are that there’s about 25 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Bakken in North Dakota and Montana. To put that in perspective we import about 4 billion barrels a year. We use about 6 billon barrels a year. So this one structure in North Dakota and Montana could be one of the keys to energy independence in the short term.” (Fox News, 3/17/11)

Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) President Daniel Juneau: The second factor that can greatly expand economic activity in the state is for the federal government to stay out of regulating shale oil and gas drilling activities. In 2004, the EPA concluded a 5-year study that concluded that the hydraulic fracturing process used in shale drilling was safe. Now the current EPA wants to go back and revisit the issue. If the EPA outlaws hydraulic fracturing, it will be the death-knell for shale oil and gas production. There is currently a tremendous amount of economic activity going on in northwest Louisiana from shale gas drilling in the Haynesville Shale play. Across central Louisiana, there is a potential for as much as 70 billion barrels of crude oil from the Tuscaloosa Shale play. Production from these shale plays can be a real shot in the arm to jobs and investment in our state. (Bastrop Daily Enterprise Op-Ed, 3/16/11)

“Penn State study shows sales tax revenue higher in Marcellus counties”: A new Penn State University publication examines state tax collection data and specifically compares counties where there is drilling and production activity in the Marcellus shale play with that of non-Marcellus counties. … The data indicates that local spending has increased in counties with major Marcellus activity. State tax collections of the personal income tax and realty transfer tax show similar differences between Marcellus and non-Marcellus counties. (Oil & Gas Journal, 3/16/11)

“Why North Dakota Is Booming: They’re drilling for oil, attracting high tech, and keeping the tax burden moderate. Result: 3.8% unemployment.” Living on the harsh, wind-swept northern Great Plains, North Dakotans lean towards the practical in economic development. Finding themselves sitting on prodigious pools of oil—estimated by the state’s Department of Mineral Resources at least 4.3 billion barrels—they are out drilling like mad. And the state is booming. Unemployment is 3.8%, and according to a Gallup survey last month, North Dakota has the best job market in the country. Its economy “sticks out like a diamond in a bowl of cherry pits,” says Ron Wirtz, editor of the Minneapolis Fed’s newspaper, fedgazette. (Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, 3/15/11)

PA State Rep.: Marcellus Shale’s “powerful [economic] ripple effects are spreading throughout the commonwealth”: And in those once-depressed counties where clean natural gas trapped in the deep shale rock is now being reached for energy consumers through high-technology horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, residents are enjoying a dramatic rebirth of jobs, business growth, and income. And, as a result, the Pennsylvania state treasury and the municipal governments in those regions are already receiving significant boosts in tax revenuePennsylvania natural gas is creating jobs, generating income, and boosting tax revenues. And while much of the economic activity remains concentrated in the Marcellus Shale regions, powerful ripple effects are spreading throughout the commonwealth. (The Sentinel Op-Ed, 3/12/11)

“Increased Drilling Creates Jobs”: An oil drilling boom across the American West is creating a wealth of job opportunities at a time when most segments of the economy remain sluggish. The boom is the result of new and updated technologies allowing companies to go after oil reserves that until recently were trapped in shale formations, making them too expensive and difficult to tap even five or ten years ago. “This is solid rock, so it’s not like a conventional resource where you just drill a well and the oil starts to flow,” Kathleen Sgamma, Director of Government and Public Affairs for The Western Energy Alliance, explained. “We have to crack that rock through a process that we call hydraulic fracturing where we pump high pressure water and a mixture, and sand down into the formation to crack the rock and create micro-fissures in the rock and prop it open with sand.” (Fox News, 3/17/11)

“This is an employment opportunity for the region. It’s going to provide a new workforce opportunity”: This summer, Clarion University’s Venango Campus will begin offering a natural gas technology program. “Obviously the Marcellus Shale industry is emerging in Pennsylvania and beyond, and it is going to be requiring a huge workforce,” said Christopher Reber, Executive Dean of Clarion University-Venango Campus. “There’s already been a phenomenal investment in Pennsylvania.”“This is an employment opportunity for the region. It’s going to provide a new workforce opportunity, and certainly we’re committed to promoting economic development for the whole area,” Reber said. (WYFX-TV, 3/16/11)

ND’s Oil Boom Has has created a $1 billion state budget surplus”: North Dakota, the state with the nation’s lowest unemployment rate, capped a decade of economic prosperity with dramatic population growth in its biggest cities. … North Dakota is enjoying an oil boom in the western part of the state, drawing workers from across the country. Williston, in oil country, grew 17.6% to 14,716. The oil windfall has created a $1 billion state budget surplus. … “We feel extremely fortunate for the position we’re in,” says North Dakota Commerce Commissioner Paul Govig. (USA Today, 3/17/11)

Hydraulic Fracturing, American Oil Production Creating Blue Collar Jobs: Increased drilling in the Niobrara Shale Formation in eastern Wyoming and Colorado is also creating job opportunities. “Currently, Noble Energy has over 60 jobs that are available in this area,” according to Stephen Flaherty, Director of Government Relations for Noble Energy. “The opportunities range from field pumpers, which just require a high school degree and no oil field service all the way up to petroleum engineers and everything in between; information technology services and accounting, just about every discipline.” (Fox News, 3/17/11)

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