WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday passed legislation on a bipartisan vote to block the federal government from issuing new rules for fracking operations on federal land in states where strict policies are already in place.
The measure passed on a 235-187 vote, but the Colorado delegation voted along party lines with Republican Reps. Doug Lamborn, Scott Tipton, Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman voting yes, and Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter voting no.
“These proposed federal regulations will lead to more bureaucratic red tape that will further discourage energy producers from developing on federal land,” said Lamborn, a cosponsor who first passed the bill out of the House Resources subcommittee he chairs.
“Our committee has heard from numerous witnesses from Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and other states who have testified to the extensive process these states went through to draft their regulations — regulations that are very successful,” Lamborn said.
“No one can show where states are dropping the ball. My home State of Colorado has been safely using hydraulic fracturing for over 40 years and has the toughest disclosure rule in the nation,” Lamborn said. “The states know their own geology and water better than the bureaucrats in Washington do.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia also spoke in favor of the bill, arguing that the shale energy boom experienced in the last few years because of advances in fracking technology is environmentally friendly, provides low energy costs, and accounted for 1.7 million jobs in 2012.
“These benefits to working families are now under threat,” Cantor said. “They are under threat from newly proposed federal regulations by this administration that would cost our economy jobs, keep energy bills from falling, and hinder our cause to become more energy secure.”
“State governments and local regulators have been very effective with implementing environmentally sound regulations to meet the specific geologic requirements for their states for over sixty years,” Cantor said.
“This act will keep the federal government from imposing redundant regulations and needless red tape that will only raise the monthly utility bills of millions of American families and cost Americans new jobs,” Cantor said. “The state and local regulators should be allowed to do this job without federal interference.”
Democrats argued that the federal government should create a new regulatory regime for all fracking operations because some of it occurs on federal lands.
“We’re having a gold rush right now for fracking,” said Rep. Rush Holt, New Jersey Democrat. “It’s not like it will have an impact if we put in a reasonable floor for regulations.”
Democrats also claim that fracking contaminates drinking water, although no studies have produced evidence that the charge is true.
A recent study by the Energy Department determined that fracking operations in Pennsylvania had not contaminated the drinking water aquifers as previously claimed.
Additionally, the EPA has abandoned its claims that chemicals used in fracking operations 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.
“New Mexico has saved drinking water and we also have plentiful jobs,” said Republican Rep. Steve Pearce from that state.
“New Mexico knows how to regulate its own industry, don’t force us to live by some cookie-cutter model that produced Obamacare and is killing jobs across the country,” Pearce said.