U.S. Rep. Compares State Regulation of HF to Jim Crow?

There was an interesting exchange this afternoon during a House hearing between Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer, an exchange that focused on who should hold primacy in regulation hydraulic fracturing: the states, or the  federal government?

EID was there for the hearing (check out our Twitter feed for updates from throughout the day) and it was clear that Rep. Connolly believes that the federal government — despite the fact that states have proven over the past 60 years that they can regulate the process effectively — should be put in charge, a position that, even when met with facts by Mr. Krancer, Rep. Connolly refused to withdraw.

At one point, Krancer noted that while his own expertise is in Pennsylvania (it’s who employs him, after all), he believes that states are more than capable of taking primary responsibility for regulating hydraulic fracturing, a conclusion he said his counterparts in other states (as well as his Democratic predecessor in Pennsylvania) have similarly reached.

Rep. Connolly then asked him to offer an “intellectual conceit” that there is a state, somewhere, maybe, possibly, that doesn’t have regulations as robust as those in Pennsylvania. Krancer responded to this ridiculous premise with an equally ridiculous answer, saying he could also concede that “Sasquatch is in  the woods, but that doesn’t get us anywhere.” Rep. Connolly, clearly incensed, then proceeded to cut him off — after asking Krancer the question, mind you — in order to interject: “This is my time!”

And this is where things got interesting.

Rep. Connolly launched from that exchange into what can only be described as one of the more fascinating leaps in logic in modern times, directly tying Mr. Krancer’s arguments to … racial segregation. Connolly said:

“Those are the same kinds of arguments that have been used for generations against federal involvement. If we were talking 40, 50 years ago about, for example, Jim Crow laws in the South, and the Civil Rights Movement, we would have heard testimony right here at this table…”

Upon hearing such an outrageous statement, Secretary Krancer attempted to interject. “With all due respect,” Krancer said. That only further angered Rep. Connolly, who barked back at the DEP Secretary once again: “This is my time!”

(To get even more details, including a post-hearing reaction from Secretary Krancer, be sure to check out Talia Buford’s coverage of the whole exchange [subs. req’d].)

Rep. Connolly went on to lecture Krancer that the Secretary doesn’t have the “expertise” to speak for other states and their regulatory programs, and therefore, according to Rep. Connolly, the Secretary’s own observations are not applicable to the nation as a whole.

The irony here – beyond the fact that Rep. Connolly, who has a background in literature and public administration, tried to lecture a state regulator about environmental regulation in his own state – is that the Congressman supports federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing on the basis that states aren’t equipped with the tools to do so adequately. Yet Rep. Connolly – a recent entrant to the national debate over HF, mostly because he represents a district where zero oil and gas activity is found — could not name single incident where the state was either ill equipped or responded inadequately, nor is there any evidence that the federal government possesses the tools and expertise to be an effective regulator of hydraulic fracturing.

The overwhelming evidence – 1.2 million wells hydraulically fractured over the past six decades without a single case of water contamination – is proof enough that state regulation has been effective in protecting the public. Handing that authority over to the U.S. EPA – which itself has stated on numerous occasions that there is no evidence of water contamination and that state regulations are already effective – is a solution in search of a problem.

And unfortunately for Rep. Connolly, no amount of hyperbole can change those facts.

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