WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Wednesday praised Colorado for enforcing its own fracking standards but said proposed national rules would take precedence so that all states, despite their unique geology, must answer to the same federal law.
“Colorado does a nice job, Wyoming does a nice job, if the standards of the states meet or exceed the federal standards we are fully supportive of the state or tribal standards, but some states do not have regulations and the technology is moving into (those) states,” Jewell told the House Resources Committee.
Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn and other lawmakers questioned why federal regulators want to interfere with states when there has been no documented contamination of water wells or a fatality involved in the gas and oil well drilling procedures.
“You’re a geologist, you know the geology and hydrology of every state is not the same as Alaska, is not the same as Hawaii,” Lamborn told Jewell.
“Why not let the states who know their own hydrology and geology better do their own regulations, instead of a one-size-fits-all imposed fiat bureaucratic mandate from Washington? Why not let states do what they are already doing a good job for?” Lamborn said.
Rep. Doc Hastings, Washington Republican and committee chairman, said the regulations would duplicate the states’ efforts yet add new layers of bureaucratic red tape that threatens job creation.
Jewell called the Obama administration’s efforts a “thoughtful update” to 30-year-old regulations.
Democrats complained that the government should not rely on a website created by the industry called FracFocus, which discloses the content of fracking chemicals, suggesting the industry would not reveal ingredients it considers trade secrets.
Jewell defended the industry’s role as a predictable and cost effective manner to track what chemicals are used where. If proprietary information is needed, Jewell said the government could gain access to it.
Jewell also suggested that if concerns warrant, the government could change the rules as to whether that information is made public.
Lamborn and other lawmakers criticized the Obama administration’s decision to cut programs reducing hazardous fuels on federal lands to prevent forest fires, while at the same time proposing to spend millions more in taxpayer dollars to purchase more private lands for the national inventory.
Jewell did not specifically address those budget decisions, but informed lawmakers she intended to “advocate for full funding” of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, another controversial program used to purchase private property.
Colorado Republican Rep. Scott Tipton invited Jewell to visit the Western Slope and see first hand how local officials are working to preserve threatened species, particularly the sage grouse, a candidate for endangered species listing.
“I have a tricky schedule I will certain endeavor to try and get out there in the next six months,” Jewell responded.
Jewell, who was confirmed by the Senate in April, will travel to Denver on Friday for her first meeting with agency officials.
Box lunches will be served at the Denver Federal Center for an informal discussion with managers to learn their perspective on operations outside of the beltway.
Afterwards, Jewell will speak at an all-hands meeting with employees across all agencies.