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Leaving Fracking Up to the States: House Continues Energy Bill Bonanza

Hydraulic fracturing involves the fracturing of rock using a pressurized liquid in order to efficiently remove oil shale and natural gas. Fracking generally utilizes water mixed with sand and chemicals that is injected at high pressure into the extraction hole to create small fissures.

Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said the fracking rules generated by the Obama administration are “bad regulations that potentially destroy jobs and stifle American energy production.”

The new federal regulations could cost $350 million annually, Hastings said. The 1.7 million jobs that are currently supported by shale oil and natural gas production -- a number that is expected to expand to 2.5 million by 2015 – would be placed in jeopardy as a result of the administration’s actions.

“Even worse, these proposed regulations duplicate efforts already being carried out by states across the country,” Hastings said. “Hydraulic fracturing has been safely and effectively regulated by states for decades. So the Obama administration's proposed regulations are unnecessary, they are redundant, and they simply waste precious time and money duplicating what is already being done successfully.”

But Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) asserted that establishing a floor for regulations is in the public interest. State regulations vary, with some instituting reasonable standards while others come up short. Some states allow open pits that prove damaging to migratory birds and other wildlife. If anything, he said, the proposed federal regulations aren’t stringent enough.

“We should have a regulatory regime where the federal government, on its lands, which belong to all the people of the United States, sets a reasonable floor for regulations,” DeFazio said. “If a state like Maryland wants to go above good, solid regulations, well, then, good. But if someone else is a bad actor, and they want to drag it down, and they want to have open pits, they don't want to test the casing, they don't want to do other things that are absolutely essential to protect resources, then they can do that on federal lands? It is bad enough that they are allowing people to do it on private lands and do it on their state lands. But these are federal lands. We are going to require and should require a higher bar to protect the public, to protect the environment, to protect these precious resources and do this responsibly.”

On the pipeline bill, Pompeo said lawmakers hit upon “a real bipartisan solution to ensure that natural gas energy is more affordable for Americans.”

“This bill ensures that America’s revolution in energy production reaches more households and factories across the country, keeping homes warm, factories humming, and utility bills low, all the while cutting needless red tape,” he said.

Most Democrats lined up against the bill, maintaining that the current system already runs with alacrity – about 92 percent of natural gas pipeline applications are already decided within 12 months.

"Instead of expediting the expansion of natural gas pipelines across the country, it would disrupt FERC's natural gas permitting process, which right now is already getting thousands of miles of pipelines permitted in a timely manner," said Rep. Cathy Castor (D-Fla.).