WASHINGTON — House Republicans are fighting back against new rules proposed by the Obama administration that they say would obstruct the practice of hydraulic fracturing on federal land and weaken the energy industry.
“Since taking office, the Obama administration has pursued the nationalization hydraulic fracturing regulations, determining that a big government solution is the best solution,” said Colorado Rep. Doug Lamborn.
“While the administration claims these regulations are meant as a baseline, the reality is these burdensome and duplicative regulations could significantly inhibit hydraulic fracturing on federal land, thereby inhibiting energy production, American job creation, and continuing our dependence on foreign energy imports,” Lamborn said.
Lamborn’s remarks came as he chaired a House Natural Resources subcommittee on energy and mineral resources hearing Thursday on legislation to protect states’ rights and block the additional federal rules.
Authored by Rep. Bill Flores of Texas, the bill essentially trumps the proposed actions he described as a “solution in search of a problem that does not exist.”
“The bill before us at today’s hearing is not a question of regulating or not regulating hydraulic fracturing. The bill before us today is about empowering local self-government and placing a check on the growth of out-of-control, one-size-fits-all-government,” Flores said.
Fracking is a method of extracting oil and gas by pumping water, sand and chemicals into shale formations.
Republicans say the additional rules are unnecessary because the industry is already heavily regulated by the states in which they operate and take into account each state’s unique geology and hydrology.
Critics say the process has polluted water wells located miles away, but supporters say the claims are unfounded and some government studies agree.
Lamborn’s hearing comes on the heels of a landmark study by the Energy Department that determined fracking operations in Pennsylvania had not contaminated the drinking water aquifers as previously claimed.
The National Energy Technology Laboratory injected tracers into the fracking fluids and monitored the area for a year, during which time researchers noted that the chemicals remained thousands of feet below the water supply.
Additionally, the EPA has abandoned its claims that the chemicals caused pollution in Texas and Wyoming after studies it conducted did not back up the charges, but not before damaging public perception of the fracking process, say agency critics.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell appeared before the full House Natural Resources Committee last week and called the fracking process “essential” adding that it “can be done safely and responsibly.”
“Repeatedly we have seen the EPA retreat from radical statements on water contamination when the facts come forward including in Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Ohio and Texas,” Lamborn said.
“Time and time again, we have seen these false claims yield to the facts of science. Additionally, witnesses from Utah, Colorado, Ohio and multiple other states have testified before our committee that there have been no instances of environmental contamination due to hydraulic fracturing,” Lamborn said.
Democrats on the panel and a witness from the Wilderness Society objected to Flores bill and suggested it would allow fracking operations inside the boundaries of national parks. Republicans said energy development cannot occur on any federal lands without a lease from the government, and said it was highly unlikely park property would ever be sold for such a purpose.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Oklahoma Republican and a Native American, called claims by environmentalists that fracking causes tap water to ignite into flames “a load of crap.”
“It’s shameful that they use such scare tactics,” Mullin said. “In Oklahoma, we know a thing or two about fracking. We have been safely and effectively fracking since 1949, in fact, we have 193,000 current active wells in our state.”
A member of the Cherokee Nation and advocate for the tribes, Mullin asked that Flores’ bill extend the language to also exclude Native American property from the proposed federal rules.
“Unless Congress steps in, these actions by this administration will proceed to harm Indian tribes,” Mullin said.
“Treating tribal land as public land is insulting and a clear violation of the agreement between our sovereign nations,” Mullin said.
“Put in simpler terms, Indians own this land, the public does not,” Mullin said.