White House Report: States Best Positioned to Regulate Shale Development

A new report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) demonstrates that states, not the federal government, are best suited to regulate shale development. The report counters a common criticism from “ban fracking” groups, who have pushed for the U.S. EPA to regulate development.

As the report states:

“The regulatory structure for addressing local environmental concerns, especially around land and water use, exists primarily at the state and local level.” (p. 280)

This complements the findings of the Groundwater Protection Council, which concluded last year that states are “on the forefront of regulating oil and gas.” As EID reported recently, states like Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, California and Colorado are also leading the way on regulations for wastewater disposal wells. The regulatory actions by these states are far more advanced than what EPA would require – and, because they have the flexibility to implement their own programs, they can easily update and strengthen their regulations whenever improvements are needed, without having to navigate through a lengthy federal bureaucracy.

In fact, the conclusions from the CEA report join a long list of experts and regulators who understand states are best equipped to regulate shale development. Here are just a few:

  • Lisa Jackson, Former EPA Administrator: “States are stepping up and doing a good job. It doesn’t have to be EPA that regulates the 10,000 wells that might go in.” (Politco,11/22/12)
  • Steve Heare, Former Director of EPA’s Drinking Water Protection Division: “I have no information that states aren’t doing a good job already.” (Fuel Fix, 2/17/10)
  • Michael Krancer, Former Secretary of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection: “There is no question that states can do and are doing a better job regulating the oil and gas extraction technique of hydraulic fracturing within their borders than the federal government could do…The states are light-years ahead of the federal government in terms of experience and know-how about their own individual states and about the science and technique of hydraulic fracturing.” (NGI Shale Daily, 5/31/12 )
  • Michael McKee, County Commissioner, Uintah County, Utah: “States have successfully regulated hydraulic fracturing for over sixty years. Given the states’ exemplary safety record, new federal mandates are not necessary. The proposed rule would add a redundant, burdensome and costly layer of federal approval for routine oil and gas operations of federal public lands, and threatens to usurp state authority in a field already well-managed by state regulators…” (Uintah County, Utah Oversight hearing, 5/31/12)

The CEA report goes on to highlight the role of natural gas in lowering greenhouse gas emissions:

“Natural gas is already playing a central role in the transition to a clean energy future. According to the decomposition mentioned in Footnote 12, nearly one-half of the CO2 emissions reductions from 2005 through 2013 stem from fuel switching…to natural gas.” (p. 280)

Just this week, a new peer reviewed report bolstered that conclusion finding that – contrary to what anti-fracking activists claim about natural gas development being a “gangplank” for global warming – methane emissions from three major shale developing regions in the United States are at 1.1 percent of production. That’s well below what is required for natural gas to have big climate benefits.

It’s clear that state regulatory agencies and producers have made enormous strides.  Whether it’s reducing methane emissions or protecting groundwater, states have been leading the way. Even as anti-fracking activists continue to push for more federal control of shale development, the White House’s top advisers think the states have been at the forefront of our energy revolution and are in the best position to move American shale development forward.

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