Hydrofracking provision in Congress – Another process foul

The CapitolA few weeks ago, I talked about my disappointment with Congress for sneaking the so-called “transparency” provision into the Financial Regulatory Reform Bill. It appears Congress has done it again.

At the eleventh hour, without any debate or committee markup, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid slipped language into the Senate energy bill last week (page 404 of the 409-page bill) targeting hydraulic fracturing.  “Hydrofracking,” as it is called, is a process that has been safely used for decades to unlock natural gas trapped in tight shale formations. Even though this process has been regulated for years at the state level, Section 4301 of the Reid bill would now require new federal regulations and oversight of the disclosure of the chemicals used in this process.

We’re not the only ones who noticed this last-minute add. Last week, an article in Politico raised concerns about the same issue.

We support disclosure of ingredients used in hydraulic fracturing fluids, including on a site-specific basis. But we don’t support Senator Reid’s proposal for achieving it.  Section 4301 suffers some serious flaws– flaws that could have been fixed had it been fully debated in public or subjected to the normal committee process.

Most importantly, we feel disclosure should be made at the state level without additional and unnecessary regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the federal government. State regulations are the most comprehensive and effective means of protecting groundwater and the environment because they take into account local geology and other factors specific to each unique location.  And states are acting on the fluid disclosure issue, with several important unconventional gas production states recently enacting or proposing new disclosure requirements (such as Colorado, Wyoming, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and New York).  We’ve been following these state guidelines and are working with industry to develop best practices.

Hydraulic fracturing is vital to the commercial production of America’s natural gas resources.  It will enable increased domestic production, which means more jobs, greater environmental and economic benefits, and improved energy security.  And it’s been used safely for more than 60 years.

In fact, Congressional testimony by the Ground Water Protection Council and the EPA in 2009 affirmed that there has not been a single case where hydraulic fracturing has caused groundwater contamination.  Not one.

If changes need to be made to reporting requirements or regulations surrounding hydraulic fracturing, we are happy to discuss them and help reach a consensus on solutions.  Slipping poorly drafted language into broad energy legislation in the middle of the night is not the way to do it.