The FRAC Act: One-Year Later

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the introduction of the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act in the 111th Congress, a bill sponsored (but probably not authored) by Reps. Dianna DeGette (D-Colo.) and Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) While short on actual legislative text, the bill – the Senate companion to which was introduced the same day last year by Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) – aims to give regulators in Washington unprecedented authority to regulate the commonly used energy technology known as hydraulic fracturing, never mind that states have been aggressively regulating the process for more than six decades already.

So here we are one year later. And despite the fact the no committee or subcommittee of either house of Congress has acted on the bill in any discernable way since its introduction, its threat to our economy and our nation’s energy security remains very real.

The Commonwealth Foundation, a Harrisburg-based think tank, says the FRAC Act “is unwarranted,” writing this in a recent policy brief entitled “Pennsylvania’s Natural Gas Boom”:

Congress is considering a federal takeover of fracking oversight, which would only lessen Pennsylvania’s environmental protection. S. 1215, the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act, would require the hydraulic fracturing process to be monitored by the federal government under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

S. 1215 is unwarranted. Fracking occurs thousands of feet beneath aquifers, and there is no indication it causes contamination. According to DEP’s Bureau of Oil and Gas Management director, “there has never been any evidence of fracking ever causing direct contamination of fresh groundwater in Pennsylvania or anywhere else.”

Besides being unnecessary, the FRAC Act is poor policy, as it shifts responsibility away from local authorities who are better equipped to handle local situations. Pennsylvania’s regulatory agencies have made sure no water contamination in the state has occurred and should be supported as the correct regulatory bodies for protecting the state’s waterways.

The FRAC Act has lined up a few cheerleaders recently, though. In fact, there’s even a movie out now called GasLand that perpetuates tired, debunked talking points aimed at domestic energy production and the tens of thousands of jobs this industry continues to create. While the “documentary” has garnered some fanfare for its theatrics, it didn’t get quite the same reception when put under the microscope of an Energy In Depth fact-check.

But it’s not just Energy In Depth that understands how critical shale gas production, enabled by fracturing, is to our nation and to our economy. Other top opinion-leaders are speaking out, too. San Antonia Express columnist David Hendricks writes this in a recent column:

What if I told you a domestic fuel exists that emits only half the greenhouse gases of coal and can be found in abundant supply to last the United States at least 45 years?

Many of you already know what it is: natural gas. Technological advances are unlocking natural gas reserves in deep shale rock strata around the world. The more people search for new reserves, the more they find.

The United States has enough shale gas that prices can range in a comfortable zone for the next few decades.

The threat of Washington stripping energy-producing states of their ability to regulate fracturing is as real as the economic benefits this technology is bringing to regions of the country who desperately need jobs and affordable, domestic supplies of energy. Send Congress the message that responsible, heavily-regulated, job-creating American energy production is critical to our long-term security.

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