EPA Vows Action on Fracking Rules, Policy

<p>Voters in four Colorado towns went to the polls Tuesday to decide on anti-fracking measures, which could influence the conversation nationwide.</p>
National Journal
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
Jan. 15, 2014, 6:01 a.m.

The En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency is seek­ing to as­sure en­vir­on­ment­al­ists that it hasn’t dropped the ball on over­sight of hy­draul­ic frac­tur­ing.

A let­ter from EPA Ad­min­is­trat­or Gina Mc­Carthy to the Nat­ur­al Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil vows the agency will take steps on sev­er­al fronts to boost the en­vir­on­ment­al safety of frack­ing, the oil-and-gas ex­trac­tion meth­od that’s en­abling U.S. en­ergy pro­duc­tion to soar.

“The EPA is mov­ing for­ward on sev­er­al ini­ti­at­ives to provide reg­u­lat­ory clar­ity with re­spect to ex­ist­ing laws and us­ing ex­ist­ing au­thor­it­ies where ap­pro­pri­ate to en­hance pub­lic health and en­vir­on­ment­al safe­guards,” Mc­Carthy writes in a Jan. 10 let­ter.

The news­let­ter En­ergy­Wire, which re­por­ted on the let­ter earli­er Wed­nes­day, notes that Mc­Carthy is re­spond­ing to a Septem­ber let­ter from NRDC’s pres­id­ent about EPA’s de­cision to drop wa­ter-con­tam­in­a­tion en­force­ment cases and probes in three states in re­cent years.

Mc­Carthy’s let­ter de­fends those de­cisions while tout­ing vari­ous pending ini­ti­at­ives.

They in­clude planned per­mit­ting “guid­ance” on frack­ing activ­it­ies that use dies­el fuels; the agency’s on­go­ing study of the ef­fects of frack­ing on drink­ing-wa­ter re­sources; and sup­port for planned In­teri­or De­part­ment reg­u­la­tions that will gov­ern frack­ing on pub­lic lands.

And Mc­Carthy says EPA hasn’t for­got­ten about plans, an­nounced in 2011, to craft reg­u­la­tions un­der the Tox­ic Sub­stances Con­trol Act to ob­tain more data from in­dustry on chem­ic­als used in frack­ing.

“The EPA will launch a stake­hold­er- and pub­lic-en­gage­ment pro­cess to seek in­put on the design and scope of such chem­ic­al re­port­ing,” Mc­Carthy writes.

Bey­ond that, she notes that EPA “an­ti­cip­ates mov­ing for­ward” with re­vi­sions to wastewa­ter reg­u­la­tions to provide more con­trols on dis­charges from oil-and-gas de­vel­op­ment that uses frack­ing.

The let­ter touts pri­or EPA ac­tions, in­clud­ing 2012 air-pol­lu­tion rules for hy­draul­ic­ally frac­tured wells. Check it out here.

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