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House Panel Questions EPA's Objectivity on Fracking

Officials with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Thursday fired off a letter to the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about its intention to regulate hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

"We write to better understand EPA's views on hydraulic fracturing and whether you have prejudged that hydraulic fracturing poses an environmental threat, even before the agency has completed a congressional mandated review of the practice," wrote Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. James Lankford (R-OK), chairman of the Subcommittee on Technology, in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

In testimony on Capitol Hill, "you [Jackson] led the committee to believe that EPA would not make any assumptions about the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing until the agency had completed its study."

However, internal e-mails between EPA and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission "demonstrate EPA has come to a predetermined conclusion that hydraulic fracturing will be imminently regulated by EPA due to the agency's concerns about the 'environmental impacts' of the practice," the House lawmakers said.

"According to documents obtained by the committee, it appears that EPA is preparing to regulate the practice of hydraulic fracturing in such a way as to make it an unreliable method of obtaining natural gas. These documents obtained by the committee suggest that EPA has not been forthcoming with the committee with regard to its plans to regulate the practice of hydraulic fracturing," the lawmakers said. They asked the EPA to submit a number of documents and respond to questions by Feb. 2, including:

In March 2010 the EPA began its study of the potential risks of fracking on water quality and public health. Environmentalists and some lawmakers contend that the chemicals used in fracking are a health risk, but producers say they are confident that the study -- if conducted objectively -- will show fracking to be safe (see Daily GPI, March 19, 2010).

A report on interim research results may be issued this year, with a follow-up report possibly coming out in 2014, the EPA said.

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