Reps. Dan Boren (D-OK) and Tim Murphy (R-PA) have fired off a letter to House Energy and Commerce officials criticizing their decision to investigate the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracing) on the environment and public health, saying it is unnecessary and duplicative given the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) planned study of the same issue.
“It seems likely that much of the information you intend to gather pursuant to your investigation will also be sought, compiled and analyzed by EPA,” wrote Boren and Murphy, co-chair of the House Natural Gas Caucus, in a recent letter to House Energy Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Edward Markey, chairman of Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee last month opened its inquiry into the potential health and environmental risks of hydrofracing, 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 (see Daily GPI, Feb. 19).
To kick off the probe Waxman and Markey sent letters to eight companies engaged in hydrofracing around the country — Halliburton, BJ Services and Schlumberger, as well as Frac Tech Services, Superior Well Services, Universal Well Services, Sanjel Corp. and Calfrac Well Services — asking them to identify the types and quantities of chemicals used in hydrofracing fluids.
The EPA Thursday said it has taken initial steps to study the potential adverse risks of hydrofracing on water quality and public health (see Daily GPI, March 19). Congress last year approved funds for the EPA study as part of the fiscal year (FY) 2010 spending bill for Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. The EPA said it is reallocating $1.9 million for the study this year and has requested additional funding in the president’s budget proposal for FY 2011.
“The information you [Waxman and Markey] are requesting would seem more appropriate to the development of that [EPA] analysis. Action by the committee raises questions regarding the purpose of this congressional-directed study,” Boren and Murphy said. “These and other issues associated with the management of hydraulic fracturing seem to be the purpose of the…EPA study,” they said.
“Some observers [have been] quick to characterize the committee’s engagement on this issue as an act of ‘fear mongering’ and a ‘torpedo in the water’ directed at America’s oil and natural gas producers,” the two lawmakers said.
And “while we are concerned about the potential conflicts this effort may create with respect to the EPA study, we view this investigation as an effort that, done right, can gather critical information — and one that we especially hope will inform our colleagues who have sought to legislate in this area without a full appreciation for the facts and science that underlie it,” Boren and Murphy said.
The lawmakers expressed opposition to pending House legislation that would transfer regulation of hydrofracing, which currently is handled by the states, to the EPA and would require production companies to disclose the chemicals used in hydrofracing (see Daily GPI, June 10, 2009).
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