EPA Wastewater Regulation—What a Waste!

by Jackie Moreau on December 1, 2011

in Blog, Features

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In the wake of EPA’s announcement that it intends to regulate how drillers dispose of the millions of gallons of wastewater (or flowback water) created by shale gas production, the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee’s recent hearing on the issue focused on how such added regulation will negatively impact the American economy: “Ensuring Regulatory Approaches That Will Help Protect Jobs and Domestic Energy Production.” This added federal regulation can only be seen in the wasteful light of a phantom problem.

According to E&E News, there are currently no national standards set for the disposal of shale gas drilling wastewater; dumping it into rivers and streams is prohibited.  States currently have the jurisdiction of choosing what drilling regulations to adopt.  To Representative Tim Bishop’s (D-NY) question of why a national minimum standard would not succeed, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Michael Krancer shot back: “Because of our long history of oil and gas development and comprehensive regulatory structure, Pennsylvania does not need intervention to ensure an appropriate balance between resources development and environmental protection is struck.”

Congressman James Lankford’s (R-OK) closing remarks strengthened Krancer’s point as he was describing the fracking site and the overall process to EPA official Jim Hanlon. He simply asked Hanlon if he had ever been on a fracking site; Hanlon admitted he had not.  The fact that EPA would send a representative who has never even set foot on a fracking site corroborates the fact that the expertise is cradled by the states, not government agencies like the EPA.

Lankford, boasting earlier of the economic boom fracking has brought to his state, inviting all to come drink their water, breathe their air, and see their land, explained: “No two areas of dirt across this country are the same.” A one-size-fits-all policy will not work.  Dana Murphy, Chairwoman of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, pointed out the slew of variables—unique to each state—that need to be considered for drilling: geography, topography, climate change, etc.  The state officials with their boots on the ground are the ones with the extensive experience and knowledge of these factors.

Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) nailed it in his opening critique of EPA’s ability of “making a perfect enemy of good.”  More regulation from the EPA would be an overt deterrent of achieving domestic economic stability, imperiling the promise of job creation, domestic energy, and stronger national security that these drilling booms provide and have provided in the states with no moratoriums or bans on fracking. Fracking provides a wide range of industry with low energy costs with cheap, clean natural gas, and every industry is dependent on the preservation of these low energy costs.  Another superfluous layer of regulation on the economically bountiful technology of hydrofracking can only lead to a further stymieing of economic improvement.

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