The ‘Frack Pack’ Is Stuck In the Past
The ‘Frack Pack’ is back with another rendition of its failed hydraulic fracturing legislative package.
House Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette (Colo.), Matt Cartwright (Pa.), Yvette Clarke (N.Y.), and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) recently re-introduced the ‘Frack Pack’, zombie pieces of legislation that have consistently failed to pass Congress regardless of which party was in control.
Much like the first time it was introduced more than a decade ago, the legislation is stuck in the past, mandating disclosures that are already happening and revoking an “exemption” that has never existed, completely disregarding existing federal, and more importantly, state regulations.
The ‘Frack Pack’ includes:
- “Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act,” R. 4014
- “Safe Hydration Is an American Right in Energy Development (SHARED) Act,” R. 3604
- “Closing Loopholes and Ending Arbitrary and Needless Evasion of Regulations (CLEANER) Act,” R. 4006
- “Focused Reduction of Effluence and Stormwater Runoff Through Hydrofracking Environmental Regulation (FRESHER) Act,” R. 4007
- “Closing Loopholes for Oil and Other Sources of Emissions (CLOSE) Act,” R. 585
A Continued Failed Effort
Rep. DeGette and associates have tried time and time again to pass duplicative anti-oil and gas legislation, failing each time.
These bills began with the 2009 FRAC Act, which failed to pass a Democratic-controlled House. Since 2009, a version of the FRAC Act has been pushed in almost every session.
Moreover, the legislative package has consistently garnered little support and been met with significant criticism, including from Rep. DeGette’s home state of Colorado where the county commissioners from Mesa, Garfield, Delta, Moffat, Morgan, Rio Blanco, Washington, Weld and Yuma counties all publicly opposed it.
Several energy organizations have also called out the inaccuracies and misinformation Rep. DeGette has used to justify the ‘Frack Pack’.
In 2009, the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States (now the Western Energy Alliance) asked Rep. DeGette to stop spreading misinformation to other members of Congress about hydraulic fracturing. Then-IPAMS Pres. George Solich told Rep. DeGette:
“We continue to be confused about the inaccurate information from your office on fracing, even though we and many other members of our industry have tried to explain the process. We feel that the rhetoric coming from groups with a clear agenda to stop responsible natural gas and oil development is affecting the legislation.” (emphasis added)
In 2015, following another ‘Frack Pack’ proposal, Kathleen Sgamma of the Western Energy Alliance told CBS news:
“All of these bills are based on false information about supposed gaps in state and federal regulations that are actually talking points from the environmental lobby, and not based on reality.” (emphasis added)
Duplicative Legislation Ignores State Efforts
Rep. DeGette aims to close what she has termed the “unconscionable Bush-Cheney loophole,” more commonly known as the “Halliburton loophole.” Except this so-called exemption has never existed because hydraulic fracturing has never fallen under jurisdiction of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). As EID has been asking for more than a decade, how can something earn an exemption from a law that never covered it in the first place?
“In 2005, Congress passed (with the vote of then-Sen. Barack Obama) the Energy Policy Act, a key provision which sought to clarify Congress’s historical intent on whether the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974 was ever designed to regulate hydraulic fracturing.
“The answer was no, and in this case, history proved an effective guide: When SDWA was passed in 1974, hydraulic fracturing had already been in use for 25 years. Hydraulic fracturing was never considered for inclusion under SDWA jurisdiction at the time. The Act was amended in 1980, and then again in 1986 and 1996. At no point in the process was the concept of SDWA regulation over fracturing ever considered a necessity – or even a possibility.” (emphasis added)
Hydraulic fracturing has been effectively regulated by the states where the practice is occurring, and the federal government largely lacks the expertise and resources to effectively oversee it.
Supported by “Keep It In the Ground” Activists
The ‘Frack Pack’ has been heavily endorsed by ‘Keep It In the Ground’ activists that are seeking to shut down the oil and gas industry altogether, rather than responsibly regulate it.
Groups supporting the ‘Frack Pack’ include EarthWorks, EarthJustice, Clean Water Action, the League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and WildEarth Guardians, among others.
In a letter to Congress in 2015, these environmental activists claimed that “scientific studies have shown that oil and gas development, including drilling, fracking, processing, and ongoing production is linked to hazardous air pollution, contaminated drinking water supplies, and toxic waste.”
These claims are not only at odds with an increasing number of scientific studies, but in the last decade while there have been many changes in energy, widespread and systemic contamination from fracking isn’t one of them.
Since the FRAC Act was first introduced, the ability to use hydraulic fracturing to unlock the potential of U.S. shale has allowed the country to become an energy powerhouse, supplying affordable, reliable oil and gas domestically, and miraculously, enabling the United States to export this energy to compete in global markets and help reduce global emissions.
And it’s being done safely and responsibly, with new innovations and best practices demonstrating there doesn’t have to be a choice made between the environment and economy.
So why are the sponsors of the ‘Frack Pack’ still stuck in the past?