House Republicans from two separate committees are asking Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to explain comments he made Tuesday that indicated natural gas drillers may be required to disclose hydraulic fracturing (fracking) chemicals used to develop shale and tight gas on public lands.

Salazar said Tuesday the department is weighing whether to move forward with a policy requiring producers to disclose the fluids associated with fracking on public lands (see Daily GPI, Dec. 1). Based on information submitted by industry, government officials and conservationists at a meeting held at Interior's headquarters in Washington, DC, Salazar indicated that a decision would be forthcoming in "weeks and months."

Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), who is expected to chair the House Natural Resources Committee beginning next year, asked Salazar in a letter on Wednesday to testify before the committee about the potential rules.

"It is requested that before taking action to unilaterally implement this policy as secretary, that you appear before the House Natural Resources Committee in the 112th Congress to provide testimony and answer questions from committee members," Hastings wrote. "It is important for the department to carefully consult and consider guidance from the House Natural Resources Committee on policies that will impact technological innovation and competitiveness on federal lands."

On Friday Salazar was sent a three-page letter by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), now the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Fred Upton (R-MI), the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.

Salazar was asked by the House members to respond to a series of questions by Dec. 17 "regarding the administration's intentions, and any hydraulic fracturing-related policy or regulatory proposals that may be forthcoming" from Interior.

"Safe drilling practices are of critical importance," said Barton and Upton's letter. "Because hydraulic fracturing is already a regulated practice, however, we believe that it is essential that [Interior] focus on understanding the universe of existing federal and state regulations on hydraulic fracturing, water quality for underground sources of drinking water, emergency planning and reporting, and waste disposal requirements, and the expertise already being brought to bear on these activities before placing regulatory requirements on natural gas exploration and production."

A "rush to regulate" by Interior and the Obama administration, they wrote, "will chill domestic oil and gas development and would negatively impact our efforts to increase energy security and to provide for a reliable and affordable energy supply..."

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