An amendment by Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) seeking to strike a provision allowing federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracing) activities on federal lands fueled an extensive debate during mark-up of a broader bill by the House Natural Resources Committee.

Fleming's proposal was offered as part of a comprehensive oil and gas reform bill being considered by the committee. A vote on the amendment was deferred until early Thursday.

Given that federal studies on the risks associated with hydrofracing are still ongoing, some House panel members argued that it was premature to vote on a proposal supporting federal regulation of hydrofracing -- a technique used to stimulate production of gas from wells in shale plays. They further said that it would usurp the power of the states It was estimated that at least 37 states have some type of regulations on hydrofracing.

With respect to regulation of hydrofracing, "I don't think this is the place to be doing this...What we need to do is sit down and come to a real compromise" between the oil and gas industry and legislators on Capitol Hill, said Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK), a member of the House panel and co-chair of the natural gas caucus.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) "and I are working on a compromise as we speak," he said.

While she supports disclosure of hydrofracing fluids, DeGette said she agreed that "we need to protect trade secrets" and "proprietary information."

Hydrofracing, which is used to stimulate many oil and gas wells, is a process in which fluids are injected at high pressure into underground rock formations to fracture the rock and increase the flow of fossil fuels.

Opponents contend that the use of hydrofracing fluids should be regulated at the federal level, saying they have seeped into groundwater supplies across the nation. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is conducting an inquiry into the potential health and environmental risks associated with hydrofracing of unconventional natural gas resources, and the Environmental Protection Agency is carrying out a two-year study of hydrofracing's effects on groundwater (see Daily GPI, March 19; Feb. 19).

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