Shale Daily / NGI All News Access

White House Asked to Coordinate Federal Review of Fracking

A major producer group has called on the White House to take the lead in coordinating federal reviews of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) with the goal of avoiding redundancy and streamlining work.

"There are currently 10 federal agencies reviewing, studying or proposing regulation of this technology to affordably develop America's natural gas," said Kyle Isakower, vice president for regulatory and economic policy for the American Petroleum Institute in Washington, DC. Some of the agencies are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Interior's U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Energy (DOE).

"The fact is that there is a strong state regulatory system in place, and adding potential redundant and duplicative federal regulation would be unnecessary, costly and could stifle investment. We need leadership by the White House to rein in these uncoordinated activities and streamline the process for more efficient reviews," Isakower said.

"We have one of the largest known reserves of natural gas in the world, and we need public policies that are based on sound science in order [to] safely and reliably develop this affordable source of energy."

In his fiscal 2013 budget released last month, President Obama announced a $45 million interagency effort by Interior, DOE and the EPA to assess the impact of fracking of shale (see Shale Daily, Feb. 14). The request drew immediate attacks from Republicans, who questioned why the federal government needed more money to study fracking.

The EPA has been conducting an independent study of the impact of fracturing on water quality and public health for the past two years (see Daily GPI, March 18, 2010). Producers say they are confident that the study -- if conducted objectively -- will show fracking to be safe. The agency is expected to release an interim report this year.

On Capitol Hill last week, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson defended the agency's ongoing two-year study of fracking, while deferring on some of the questions from the lawmakers until the research is complete (see Shale Daily, Feb. 29) .

The BLM is moving forward with a final rule on fracking. A draft of the rule would require companies to reveal the trade names and purposes of fracturing fluid additives and to name the specific chemicals involved and the volumes used. The rule also contains a trade secret exemption if companies can show that state or federal laws and regulations protect the information from public disclosure, according to the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA).

The date when a final BLM rules will be issued is uncertain. The rules will be subject to public comment once they're formally proposed, and their provisions could change before becoming final, the IPAA said.

Last August an energy advisory board to Energy Secretary Steven Chu released a report recommending that producers be required to disclose the chemical contents of fracking fluids (see Shale Daily, Aug. 12, 2011). While "the subcommittee shares the prevailing view that the risk of fracturing fluid leakage into drinking water sources through fractures made in deep shale reservoirs is remote," it "nevertheless believes there is no economic or technical reason to prevent public disclosure of all chemicals in fracturing fluids, with an exception for genuinely proprietary information."

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