May 12, 2014 - 3:15pm

EPA Wants to Regulate Hydraulic Fracturing Even Though States Already Do

Senior Editor, Digital Content


EPA headquarters.
EPA headquarters. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg.

Like Ahab chasing Moby Dick, EPA continues is quest to regulate hydraulic fracturing. This time, the agency is asking the public if it should collect information on the fluid used in the technique and how it should be done.

It’s doing this despite the agency's history of jumping to conclusions that hydraulic fracturing contaminates groundwater then backing away from the charges.

EPA also is doing this despite then EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson telling Congress in 2011, “I'm not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.”

Even today, former Obama administration officials agree with Jackson's comment. “We know that, from everything we’ve seen, there’s not a single case where hydraulic fracking has created an environmental problem for anyone,” former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently said recently, and former Energy Secretary (and Nobel Prize winner in Physics), Steven Chu said in 2013, that hydraulic fracturing is “something you can do in a safe way.”

Beyond whether there’s a problem that needs to be addressed, additional federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing would be duplicative of state efforts, a report from the Senate and Congressional Western States Caucuses concludes.

For example, Utah has regulated fracturing since the 1950s. “There has never been an incident of groundwater contamination in Utah as a result of hydraulic fracturing,” the report states.

Agencies are also ensuring responsible shale energy development in the states where hydraulic fracturing is having the greatest success: North Dakota and Texas.

The report finds that:

The North Dakota Oil and Gas Division requires a wide range of stipulations on drilling permits to protect drinking water sources, minimize impacts on nearby occupied dwellings, and minimize effects to the surrounding area.

And in Texas:

Today the [Railroad] Commission monitors more than 409,000 oil and gas wells and related facilities throughout the state….

For decades, these states have struck a balance between responsible energy development and protecting the environment. State agencies have better knowledge of local geographies and can tailor regulations to best fit their states. Instead of imposing overbearing, one-size-fits-all rules from Washington, D.C., EPA and other federal regulators should respect the successful work states are doing.

Follow Sean Hackbarth on Twitter at @seanhackbarth and the U.S. Chamber at @uschamber.

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About the Author

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.