Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was called to task last week by House Republicans from two separate committees who want him to explain comments indicating natural gas drillers may be required to disclose hydraulic fracturing (fracking) chemicals used to develop shale and tight gas on public lands.
On Tuesday Salazar helmed a forum at the Department of Interior to obtain industry and state regulatory input about whether to require producers to disclose the fluids associated with fracking on public lands (see Shale Daily, 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.
The two House members asked Salazar 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..."