The Interior Department is proposing new federal rules for hydraulic fracturing, but the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee warns they're unnecessary and will only limit energy production and economic growth.
Hydraulic fracturing, known more commonly as fracking, is an increasingly effective method by which oil and gas are extracted from rock formations. Estimates suggest the energy production potential in fracking is massive, and states like North Dakota and Pennsylvania have already enjoyed significant economic benefits. While the concept is somewhat new to many Americans, it has actually been in practice for decades.
Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., who is the House natural resources chairman, said new rules from Washington are not needed.
"For a long time, 60-70 years, the states have regulated hydraulic fracturing," he told WND. "So there hasn't been a nationwide rule. Frankly, it's for that reason that I think that this proposed regulation is a solution in search of a problem, because the states have done it very, very successfully for a number of years."
Now, the Interior Department's proposed rule would require compliance with mandates such as "requiring operators to disclose the chemicals they use in fracturing activities on public lands, improving assurances of well-bore integrity to verify that fluids used during fracturing operations are not contaminating groundwater and confirming that oil and gas operators have a water management plan in place for handling fluids that flow back to the surface." The government would also mandate which type of tools extractors could and could not use.
Hastings said these and other proposals just prove the federal government is meddling needlessly.
"What they're getting at is trying to, at least on federal land, have a nationwide, one-size-fits-all regulation," he said. "All of those three concerns are covered by states with their laws on hydraulic fracturing, so there's nothing new here. The states have been doing it. They've been doing it very well, and I think we need to respect that."
While noting that states already have tough environmental standards in place, Hastings said different states have slightly different regulations because the conditions in each state are different – something a sweeping federal rule fails to take into account.
"Not every state is exactly the same," Hastings said. "All states are different as to the make-up of their geology. Each state knows their geology better than other states. This is a solution looking for a problem."
He said the Department of the Interior has allowed states to pursue their own regulations in other areas, which makes this decision all the more confusing. But he also believes there are politics involved by some in the administration.
"They don't like the development of the oil and gas industry. In fact, they have said that indirectly with their promotion of green energy. I suspect that eventually this could be some sort of tool to slow the process down. It's slow enough on federal lands already. This could be a way to slow it down even more," Hastings said.
"If this goes into effect, I think it'll probably slow down energy development on federal lands. I can't draw any other conclusions because any time you look at other federal regulations, even in other industries, the end result tends to be a slowdown in production or a slowdown of activity with whatever those regulations are trying to regulate and I suspect that'll be the same in this," he said.
Hastings and other GOP members are also furious that after some three years of putting this new rule for federal lands together, the Interior Department is allowing just 30 days of comment before making a final determination on implementation.
"We will be asking, officially from the committee, that they extend the comment period to 120 days," he said. "I suspect there will be other groups asking for the same, because 30 days on a rule or regulation like this that's been three-some years in the making is too short of a time period. There's too much at stake with this."