Bills to Limit Fracking Regulations Hit House Floor

Equipment used for the extraction of natural gas is viewed at a hydraulic fracturing site on June 19, 2012 in South Montrose, Pennsylvania. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, stimulates gas production by injecting wells with high volumes of chemical-laced water in order to free-up pockets of natural gas below. The process is controversial with critics saying it could poison water supplies, while the natural-gas industry says it's been used safely for decades. While New York State has yet to decide whether to allow franking, Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering whether to allow limited franking for communities along the pennsylvania border that want it. Economically struggling Binghamton had passed a drilling ban which prohibits any exploration or extraction of natural gas in the city for the next two years. The Marcellus Shale Gas Feld extends through parts of New York State, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia and could hold up to 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  
National Journal
Clare Foran
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Clare Foran
Nov. 19, 2013, 4:08 p.m.

After a re­l­at­ively quiet year on the en­ergy and en­vir­on­ment front, House Re­pub­lic­ans are again rev­ving up at­tacks on Pres­id­ent Obama’s policies for en­ergy de­vel­op­ment, this time with a pair of bills that would chip away at the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s au­thor­ity over oil and gas pro­duc­tion on fed­er­al lands.

Much of the de­bate sched­uled for the House floor Wed­nes­day will fo­cus on le­gis­la­tion sponsored by Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, to block the In­teri­or De­part­ment from reg­u­lat­ing frack­ing on pub­lic lands where state reg­u­la­tions are already on the books.

Ahead of Wed­nes­day’s de­bate, sup­port­ers of the meas­ure framed it as an at­tempt to ward off a reg­u­lat­ory re­gime that would prove harm­ful to the do­mest­ic oil and gas boom.

“We have a shale-en­ergy re­volu­tion in this coun­try and the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment shouldn’t be do­ing any­thing to jeop­ard­ize that,” Flores told Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily. “This bill would put the power to reg­u­late back in­to the hands of the people who do it best — the states.”

House Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee Chair­man Doc Hast­ings, R-Wash., sim­il­arly painted the le­gis­la­tion as an at­tempt to block the ad­min­is­tra­tion from slow­ing oil and nat­ur­al-gas pro­duc­tion.

“Im­pos­ing a “˜one-size-fits-all’ fed­er­al reg­u­la­tion on hy­draul­ic frac­tur­ing would add costly and du­plic­at­ive lay­ers of red tape that would only stand in the way of in­creased Amer­ic­an en­ergy pro­duc­tion,” Hast­ings said.

The le­gis­la­tion is ex­pec­ted to pass but is not likely to win many Demo­crat­ic votes. “I will not be sup­port­ing this bill,” Rep. Peter De­Fazio, D-Ore., com­men­ted ahead of the vote. “The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has pro­posed reas­on­able reg­u­la­tions for hy­draul­ic frac­tur­ing, and they should be al­lowed to go for­ward.”

Crit­ics of the meas­ure point out that In­teri­or reg­u­la­tions, which would only ap­ply to fed­er­al lands, are not likely to have a sig­ni­fic­ant im­pact on do­mest­ic pro­duc­tion giv­en that the bulk of drilling activ­ity cur­rently takes place on state and private lands.

The House will also vote Wed­nes­day on le­gis­la­tion sponsored by Rep. Doug Lam­born, R-Colo., that would speed up the time it takes for com­pan­ies to re­ceive a per­mit to drill on fed­er­al lands and open up more fed­er­al lands to drilling.

The votes come as part of a broad­er stan­doff between House Re­pub­lic­ans and the pres­id­ent over who has done more to help the do­mest­ic surge in oil and nat­ur­al-gas pro­duc­tion. Obama claimed in his weekly ad­dress on Sat­urday that the rise in pro­duc­tion should be at­trib­uted, in part, to the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s sup­port for new tech­no­lo­gies.

For, now, however, the rhet­or­ic is mostly sym­bol­ic. The bills are not ex­pec­ted to gain trac­tion in the Sen­ate, and the White House an­nounced Tues­day that the pres­id­ent would likely veto the le­gis­la­tion in the event of fi­nal pas­sage.

Demo­crats called the de­bate on the bills Wed­nes­day a waste of time. “This will nev­er go any­where,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. “So we’ll burn up a day now that we could be us­ing to do something mean­ing­ful like pass an ap­pro­pri­ations bill or deal with a whole range of is­sues that aren’t par­tic­u­larly par­tis­an or con­tro­ver­sial. In­stead, we’re tread­ing wa­ter.”

House Minor­ity Whip Steny Hoy­er, D-Md., re­ferred to the bills as “the fiddle on which we are play­ing while Rome is burn­ing,” since Con­gress has yet to fin­ish work on the budget, the farm bill, an im­mig­ra­tion bill, and oth­er press­ing is­sues.

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