Proposed fracking rule a concession to oil, gas industry

DENVER — In a concession to the oil and gas industry, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar proposed a rule Friday that wouldn't require the disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluids until after the drilling of a well is completed.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., called the draft rule “a good first step” but said the “requirements for disclosure are seriously inadequate.” Initially, the Department of Interior proposed requiring companies to reveal the chemicals used in fracking before drilling commenced.
On the steps of the state Capitol, Gary Wockner speaks out against the influence of industry on Colorado's congressional delegation.
Photo by Troy Hooper

“We’re all seeking common-sense solutions to ensure the safety of natural gas production,” DeGette said, “but with all due respect, requiring disclosure after fracking has already occurred seems less common-sense and more ‘closing the door after the horse has left the barn.’

“Colorado has historically benefited greatly from a strong energy economy,” the congresswoman from Denver continued. “Our state’s vast natural gas reserves offer the promise of new jobs, new energy, and a stronger economy for the long-term. But it would truly be a devil’s bargain if the price we pay for oil and gas jobs is the health of our families and the integrity of our precious public lands.”

Companies rely on fracking — a process in which a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is flushed into the ground to release oil and gas deposits buried beneath rock — to drill most wells in the modern American West. A patchwork of state and local regulations has sprung up to try to address the impacts of fracking on health and the environment.

The Obama administration has placed an emphasis on reducing the nation's dependence on foreign oil, advocating an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy that takes advantage of fossil fuels as well as cleaner resources like wind and solar. The president has singled out natural gas, noting that America has an almost 100-year supply that could create more than 600,000 jobs in the next decade.

Lobbyists for big oil companies like ExxonMobil worked with the Obama administration's Office of Management and Budget to weaken the original Interior regulation proposed in February.

Despite the loosening of the proposed fracking rule, oil and gas proponents criticized Salazar's offer.

“We will be doing a thorough review of the proposal but at first glance it indicates that the Department of the Interior and, in particular the Bureau of Land Management, may not fully appreciate the significant regulatory steps already undertaken by states such as Colorado, Texas, Wyoming and others to oversee the safe and responsible development of natural gas through the use of hydraulic fracturing,” said Tom Amontree, executive vice president for America's Natural Gas Alliance.

Industry representatives contend that states are in better position to make rules governing fracturing since they each have their own unique geologic conditions and on-the-ground experts.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association worries the Interior rule may conflict with state laws.

"Hydraulic fracturing is a highly engineered process which requires competent and knowledgeable supervision by regulators familiar with geologic conditions and technical specifications. Fortunately, in Colorado, every aspect of drilling is regulated by the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, the state agency with technical knowledge of Colorado’s geological basins," COGA wrote in an email. "With the adoption of the new [fracking] disclosure rule in Colorado, we are now operating under one of the strongest rules in the country. This new rule has been characterized as the most transparent and stringent set of hydraulic fracturing regulations and is setting the pace for the rest of the country."

Colorado's rules, however, have been called “empty words on a page” because of the 516 spills in 2011 the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission only assessed five fines. Watchdog groups contend the state's commissioners are too cozy with industry. They demand more oversight.

States are struggling to keep pace with the surge in fracking and horizontal drilling.

In Colorado, local communities are fighting to have a say in how drilling is regulated, while Gov. John Hickenlooper and industry groups push for from-the-state-down rule-making.

Studies show fracking can contaminate groundwater, pollute the air and trigger earthquakes.

A field oversight hearing of the U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources was held in Denver on Wednesday, led by chairman Doug Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado Springs. In his opening remarks, Lamborn said “states have worked diligently to implement hydraulic fracturing regulations on their own lands” and he accused the Obama administration of hijacking those efforts and imposing its own blanket set of regulations with little state or tribal input.

Outside the hearing, critics called the subcommittee “a dog-and-pony show.” A group of fracking opponents took to the steps of the state Capitol where they unfurled a banner reading “Welcome Flat Earth Society” with photos of U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton, Cory Gardner, Lamborn and Mike Coffman.

Gary Wockner, state program director for Clean Water Action, labeled the four Republican congressmen from Colorado the “Flat Earth Society” because, to them, “what is up is down what is left is right and facts defy reality. They say the Obama administration is hindering oil and gas production but facts say that oil production in Colorado in 2011 was at an all time high. Natural gas production in Colorado in 2010 was at an all-time high. They say the Obama administration is hindering the leasing of public lands yet only 25 percent of the lands that they have leases on are being drilled – over 3 million acres they hold leases on are not being drilled. They say that the Obama administration is hindering drilling permits from moving forward at the same time the oil and gas industry is sitting on 602 permits they are not using. They say the Obama administration has slowed down the production of oil and gas, instead the Obama administration has increased the production of oil and in Colorado over what the Bush administration did. What we're seeing from these congressmen are fake solutions to fake problems, including the three bills they introduced in the House last week.”

Tipton, Lamborn, Gardner and Coffman are in the pockets of big oil and gas companies, Wockner alleged, noting that over $700,000 has been donated to their campaigns. In return, he said the congressmen voted to give the industry $9 billion in tax breaks in 2011 alone.

Representatives for the congressmen could not be reached for comment.

Obama has called for an end to subsidies for the nation's biggest oil and gas companies but members of the House and Senate whose campaigns have benefited from the industry continue to resist.

“As the president has made clear, this administration’s energy strategy is an all-out effort to boost American production of every available source of energy,” Salazar said in a prepared statement after releasing today's draft rule. “As we continue to offer millions of acres of America’s public lands for oil and gas development, it is critical that the public have full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place. The proposed rule will modernize our management of well stimulation activities – including hydraulic fracturing – to make sure that fracturing operations conducted on public and Indian lands follow common-sense industry best practices.”

The rule would affect drilling on 700 million acres of Bureau of Land Management land plus another 56 million acres of Indian lands, where thousands of oil and gas wells are drilled each year.

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comments: 1 Comment on "Proposed fracking rule a concession to oil, gas industry"

Paul Felix Schott – May 08, 2012, at 3:21 p.m.

Hydraulic Fracturing a Danger to us All.

Only the wicked in mind Leaders in this Nation and around the world would let anyone Pipe Pollution into the ground to get gas in return from the Ground. Most all scientist have know this for many years that this will end safe drinking water for all that are in the area of where they are fracturing, in which Millions of Gallons of Dangerous Poison Chemically Treated Water are forced underground to break up rock and free gas. We need regulations from GODLY People that will stop 10,000+ wells a year drilled using hydraulic fracturing to free and make the Dangerous Poison Chemicals underground into gas. The primarily affect will be unsafe drinking water and many will become sick. THE HEALTH OF MANY WILL DETERIORATE because of A Few Wicked Greedy Leaders. Those who have made these decisions do not know Jesus Christ. Soon He will say i know you not. They belong in jail soon it will be hell for them. What sick in mind would let or want anyone to put Dangerous Poison Chemicals underground or into the ground anywhere.

The wicked are trying to sell and tell all if it is not near your home or land it is safe. This is the biggest ling of horse manure. Do they think most of We The People are that dumb or that most Americans lack any intelligence at all. What ever is put on or in the ground makes it way to our underground Aquifers, Rivers, Lakes and the Oceans. Every Scientist on Earth knows this and most all that have made it to eighth grade in school.

So why would any Leader with a good healthy mind ever say or want this?

Vote any wicked that has anything to do with this out of office they work for WE THE PEOPLE.

United We Stand In GOD We Trust

The Lord's Little Helper
Paul Felix Schott

Wicked Leaders telling their friends as long as you can cover it up and it will not get back to me it is ok with me. Are you sure we will not go to jail for making money by Polluting the ground and water. Of course not we make the laws to fit our needs not the health and welfare of others or as they used to say We The People. Its now the Wicked Leaders and rich Rule. Till our Lord GOD comes!

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