Published: May 7, 2009
Fearing a push by House Democrats to regulate a controversial form of natural gas production, an industry coalition launched a campaign yesterday arguing that new rules would kill jobs and batter the economy.
The coalition of independent oil and gas companies says a Democratic proposal to allow new oversight over hydraulic fracturing would slash domestic oil and gas production and cost the Treasury $4 billion in lost taxes, royalties, rents and other payments. But environmentalists and an aide to a Democratic lawmaker backing regulation say the claim amounts to "scare tactics."
The industry group says hydraulic fracturing, which uses high-pressure injections into the ground to force oil and gas to flow more freely, has a track record of safety and is regulated sufficiently by the states. Environmentalists and some congressional Democrats argue it threatens groundwater. In addition to adding oversight, they want companies using the process to reveal what chemicals are used -- information that is now considered proprietary.
The 2005 Energy Policy Act exempted hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Water Drinking Act. But Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) proposed a bill last year to repeal that exemption. DeGette is now talking with Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) about either inserting her bill into pending climate legislation or reintroducing the measure on its own.
"We're hoping to move this forward shortly," DeGette spokesman Kristofer Eisenla said. Without federal oversight, he said, there is no way to really track whether the process is safe.
The possibility of new regulations triggered the industry's public relations campaign.
"The key question is how vulnerable lawmakers are going to be to being persuaded" by the data the coalition is sharing, said Kevin Book, managing director at ClearView Energy Partners, an energy market analysis firm. With the next election still 19 months away, he said, lawmakers "may not be as persuadable."
In addition to sending its data to the press, the group Energy in Depth delivered its information to "key oversight committees" in Congress.
"This campaign is designed to dispel some of the myths and showcase some of the technologies" used by companies in the hydraulic fracturing business, said Brian Kennedy, spokesman for the Energy in Depth coalition. "We've got to make the point that federal policy should be fostering more domestic energy production, not less."
Despite Democratic majorities on Capitol Hill, "if we're successful in communicating the facts," Kennedy said, the odds of defeating a legislative move for federal regulation "are quite good." ...
"As these things are playing out now on the Hill, obviously these industries remain very powerful," (Sierra Clubspokesman, Josh) Dorner said. But with the Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress opening the door to more regulation, he said, "clearly the days of the Dick Cheney energy policy have passed."
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Defend Our Water Now! Write to your congressmen today! Urge your representative to vote FOR H.R.7231, repealing exemptions for hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
WE NEED TO SPEAK LOUDER THAN THEY DO!