WASHINGTON – State environmental officials criticized an Obama administration proposal that would regulate more of the hydraulic fracturing process at the federal level, saying that state rules are sufficient to protect public health.
Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency released a draft rule that would regulate hydraulic fracturing wells in which part of the fracturing fluid contains diesel fuel. It said the wells would be subject to the Safe Drinking Water Act, the 1974 law that regulates the nation’s public drinking water and its sources, including ground water wells.
At a hearing Thursday of the Government Oversight Committee, state environmental officials denounced the proposal as an unnecessary federal intrusion.
Mike McKee, a commissioner in Utah’s Uintah County, said a new federal rule is “ill advised, unneeded, and redundant … In my ten years as a county commissioner, I have not heard of one valid violation or abuse with hydraulic fracturing. This includes the fluids used, the depth, the method of injection or any concern being associated with fracturing. The industry is best regulated at the state level rather than the federal level, where the bureaucracy is distant from local conditions.”
Lori Wrotenbery, the director of the oil and gas conservation division of Oklahoma’s public utilities commission, suggested that state regulations were superior to federal rules. “They’re strong. They’re responsive. They’re flexible. Now states do face challenges, especially related to new technologies. And the nature of the challenge varies from state to state,” Wrotenbery said.
The hearing Thursday represented the second time in May a House of Representatives committee held a hearing on the EPA’s draft proposal. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) held a field hearing in Denver May 2 about the draft.
Many Democrats support the EPA’s proposal.
When the draft was released in early May, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) issued a statement with two other House Democrats said the rule represented “a long-overdue step to explain existing requirements for the use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing fluids.”
Colorado House Republicans disagreed.
Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) said in a statement that “Governor Hickenlooper and the State of Colorado have done a good job of regulating and monitoring fracking” and that he “is confident that they can continue to do this without adding more government to the mix.”
The hydraulic fracturing industry is a key player in Colorado. The state has 45,000 active oil and gas wells and is the fourth largest natural gas producer in the country. Stronger, a group of state, industry, and environmental interest officials, said in a report last October that the Centennial State’s program was “well managed and professional and generally meets” its 2010 guidelines.