Senators Air Serious Concerns Over EPA’s Hydraulic Fracturing “Guidance”

Cross-posted at WLF’s Forbes.com contributor site

Last week, five members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works aimed a bipartisan message of frustration at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its desire to increase regulation of hydraulic fracturing. Senators James Inhofe, Lisa Murkowski, John Hoeven, Mary Landrieu, and Joe Manchin signed the letter addressed to EPA Administrator Jackson.

The specific target of the Senators’ ire was a May 10 draft guidance document regarding companies’ use of diesel fuels in hydraulic fracturing. The letter’s criticisms were numerous and pointed. Among them were:

  1. EPA attempts to expand its jurisdiction by redefining “diesel.” Four of the six named “diesel fuels” are not in fact diesel fuels.
  2. EPA is imposing new conditions on state permitting programs to which EPA expressly delegated authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).
  3. If state authorities fail to implement the EPA guidance’s “recommendations,” those authorities become exposed to citizen suits by activist groups.
  4. EPA has failed, as the SDWA requires, to explain why additional requirements for permits are “essential” to protect underground drinking water.

The Senators found this final problem especially troubling since EPA has “repeatedly confirmed that hydraulic fracturing has caused no proven incidents of ground water contamination.”

The diesel draft guidance received over 2,700 comments, a large percentage of which were “robo-comments” generated by anti-fracturing activist groups. Comments from affected businesses reflected concerns the Senators raised, as well as other notable problems. One from Spiller Operation Co., a six-person drilling company, argued that because the draft guidance substantively changed regulatory requirements, EPA should have utilized formal notice-and-comment rulemaking. Continue reading “Senators Air Serious Concerns Over EPA’s Hydraulic Fracturing “Guidance””