States to U.S. Congress: Hands Off Hydraulic Fracturing

As Waxman, DeGette consider handing regulatory reins over to EPA,state legislatures speak up in support for maintaining,strengthening current state-federal partnership

WASHINGTON, DC – As their federal counterparts in Washington, D.C. look for new and creative ways to restrict the responsible use of a critical natural gas and oil extraction technique known as hydraulic fracturing, states with decades of experience in regulating the technology are not taking the effort lying down.

Earlier this week, the Louisiana House became the latest in a string of legislatures where resolutions affirming the chamber’s support for hydraulic fracturing – or opposition to Congress’s effort to disrupt the current partnership – were either formally filed or broadly approved. Many of these states have effectively regulated fracturing activities for more than a half century, and stand to lose the most – in jobs, revenue, royalties and energy output – should EPA be given regulatory authority over the proven technology. To learn more specifics about hydraulic fracturing technology, click here.

“If hydraulic fracturing were unsafe, unregulated, and largely unnecessary as a tool of producing American energy, Congress would have a good reason to step in, and states would have an even better one to step out,” said Lee Fuller, a spokesman for Energy In Depth, a new coalition of American oil and natural gas trade groups. “Clearly, that is not the case. And that’s why you’ve seen states from the Southeast to the Intermountain West stand up, shoulder-to-shoulder, and affirm their support for this safe, critical and increasingly valuable well stimulation technology”.

The latest effort out of Baton Rouge, La. was introduced by Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville, and calls on Congress to maintain a provision in existing federal law preserving Congress’s intent not to regulate hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974, legislation designed to protect public water supplies. In 1974, hydraulic fracturing had already been in commercial use for 25 years. At no time during its deliberation, nor in subsequent debates on amendments to SDWA in 1986 and 1996, was the concept of regulating hydraulic fracturing under SDWA ever a consideration.

The reason? Hydraulic fracturing was then, and continues to be now, aggressively regulated by the states, compiling an impressive record of safety and performance over that time. More than 60 years after its first commercial use, not a single case of hydraulic fracturing-related contamination has been documented by the federal government. In fact, a landmark 2004 study conducted by EPA found that hydraulic fracturing posed “no threat” to underground drinking water supplies.

Because of that, other states – such as Alabama, North Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, Oklahomaand Texas – have taken up or passed resolutions similar to the one being considered in Louisiana. In New Mexico, former U.S. Energy Secretary and current Governor Bill Richardson introduced a plan in February aimed at easing unnecessary compliance burdens, recognizing that thousands of jobs and millions in potential revenue were tied to safe, responsible, state-regulated natural gas and oil production.

Those conclusions are supported in full by a recent set of studies known collectively as Project BRIEF (Bringing Real Information on Energy Forward), commissioned by the Energy in Depth coalition. In particular, BRIEF found that proposed changes to federal regulations, including those related to hydraulic fracturing, could result in:

  • The forced closure of more than half of America’s oil wells, and a third of its gas wells
  • $4 billion in lost revenue to the federal government; state treasuries would lose $785 million
  • Domestic oil production slashed by 183,000 barrels per day; natural gas by 245 billion cubic feet per year
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