Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has called on the Interior Department to comply with an Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) directive that requires the agency to fund a study of the effects of coalbed methane production on ground and surface water resources.

EPAct requires Interior, in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to conduct the study. However, Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) "has indicated that they have no intention of complying with the law's directives," Waxman said in a letter Thursday to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.

"BLM wrote to NAS on April 24, 2006, informing NAS that BLM would not be funding the study required under [EPAct]. The letter included a set of [earlier] studies BLM claimed addressed the concerns about coalbed methane production that the EPAct study requirement aims to address," he noted.

"BLM has no authority to ignore the law. There are numerous documented damaging effects of coalbed methane production on water resources, the ecosystems that depend on those resources, and agricultural and other economic activities. There are also significant concerns about threats to human health. Congress required DOI to fund NAS to study these issues and recommend solutions to Congress," Waxman said.

"Anything less than a comprehensive NAS study, designed in consultation with EPA, that addresses all subject area, data analysis and recommendation requirements...will fail to meet the law's requirements."

According to Waxman, large quantities of water produced as a byproduct of coalbed methane production and discharged to surface waters can contain harmful toxins such as heavy metals, hydrocarbons and other volatile organic compounds.

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