The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Another Fracking Strawman, Up In Smoke

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted June 26, 2012

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, telling Reuters on Monday that state regulation of hydraulic fracturing isn’t enough:

"There are some who are saying that it's not something we ought to do, it should be left up to the states. That's not good enough for me because states are at very different level, some have zero, some have decent rules."

Bold, to be sure. So we wonder about the “some who are saying” in Salazar’s comment. Who’s he talking about? Perhaps EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who said this in an interview last fall:

"The vast majority of oil and gas production is regulated at the state level. There are issues of whether or not the federal government can add to protection and also peace of mind for citizens by looking at large issues like air pollution impacts, which can be regional. ... So it's not to say that there isn't a federal role, but you can't start to talk about a federal role without acknowledging the very strong state role. We have no data right now that lead us to believe one way or the other that there needs to be specific federal regulation of the fracking process."

Worth repeating: The chief of the federal agency charged with protecting the environment says they’ve got nothing indicating that there needs to be “specific federal regulation of the fracking process.” More Jackson, a few days later on MSNBC:

“States are stepping up and doing a good job. I always say it doesn't have to be EPA that regulates the 10,000 wells that might go in."

Now, about the last part of Salazar’s comment, that some states have “zero” hydraulic fracturing regulation. We’ve checked around, and it looks like the secretary succumbed to a bit of Washington hyperbole there. A 2009 report by the Groundwater Protection Council, funded by the Energy Department for its National Energy Technology Laboratory, didn’t detect any oil and natural gas-producing states with ZERO rules.

Meanwhile, state officials sure sound deserving of Jackson’s confidence.

Oklahoma Corporation Commission Chairman Dana Murphy, before Congress last fall:

"My fundamental point would be to encourage that the states are the appropriate bodies to regulate the oil and gas drilling industry. Protection of water and the environment and the beneficial development of the nation's resources of oil and gas are not mutually exclusive goals. Oklahoma is proof of that."

And Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer:

“Simply put, because of our long history of oil and gas development and comprehensive regulatory structure, Pennsylvania does not need federal intervention to ensure an appropriate balance between resource development and environmental protection is struck.”

And Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper:

“I was personally involved with 50 or 60 (fracked) wells. There have been tens and thousands of wells in Colorado … and we can’t find anywhere in Colorado a single example of the process of fracking that has polluted groundwater. … There is a lot of anxiety out there certainly with hydraulic fracturing. But often times that anxiety is not directly connected to facts.”

If Secretary Salazar is dissatisfied with state-centered regulation of fracking – which is closest to and most responsive to individual industry operations – he should check with Administrator Jackson. And also with officials in the states, who clearly take the responsibility to oversee fracking within their borders seriously.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.