Congress Fights Back Against BLM Fracking Rule

Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) recently introduced a bipartisan bill, H.R. 2728, the Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act. The bill seeks to preserves state authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on public lands—a right that has recently come under assault from the federal government.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in May proposed creating an additional layer of federal bureaucracy to hydraulic fracturing regulation, even though states have regulated the drilling practice successfully for years without a single confirmed instance of groundwater contamination.

Even Interior Secretary Sally Jewell admitted recently that “fracking has been done safely for decades.” Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson also admitted, “I am not aware of any proven case where the fracking process has affected water, although there are investigations ongoing.” Just a few weeks ago, EPA ended one of these investigations in Pavillion, Wyoming after once again failing to find proof that hydraulic fracturing had contaminated groundwater.

Rep. Flores’ bill would block the Interior Department from promulgating this duplicative and unnecessary rule, recognizing the impressive safety record of states. Regulations already in place at the state level reflect local knowledge of geological and hydrological conditions. Adding an additional and unresponsive federal layer of bureaucracy is unwarranted and can only hinder domestic oil and natural gas production.

Technological advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have unlocked vast energy resources that were previously inaccessible, leading to the greatest domestic energy boom in U.S. history.  This boom, however, is not occurring on lands subject to federal oversight, but on state and private lands currently outside of Washington’s reach. According to a recent report, oil production fell 4 percent and natural gas production fell 33 percent on federal lands from 2007 to 2012. Over the same period, oil production on private and state lands grew by 35 percent and natural gas production grew by 40 percent.

Beyond the fact it is unnecessary and duplicative, the draft rule would also impose significant compliance costs on energy producers. According to a recent study, the BLM’s hydraulic fracturing rule would cost at least $345 million annually. This new layer of red tape would lead to fewer wells being drilled, fewer jobs being created, and less energy security for the country.

Policy Intern Monica Somandroiu contributed to this post.



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