042710Jackson_EPA_Fracking by enviroknow

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									F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, JR., WISCONSIN
RANKING MEMBER
JOHN B. SHADEGG. ARIZONA
CANDICE MILLER, MICHIGAN
JOHN SULLIVAN, OKLAHOMA
MARSHA BLACKBURN, TENNESSEE
SHELLEY CAPITO, WESTVIRGINIA
EARL BLUMENAUER, OREGON
JAY INSLEE, WASHINGTON
JOHN B LARSON, CONNECTICUT
STEPHANIE HERSETH SANDLIN, SOUTH DAKOTA
EMANUEL CLEAVER, MISSOURI
JOHN J. HALL. NEW YORK
JOHN SALAZAR, COLORADO
JACKIE SPEIER, CALIFORNIA
ONE HUNDRED ELEVENTH CONGRESS
Select Committee on
Cnergp 3fnbepenbence anb dilobal Warming
M.S'. Manet of iSepresentatiufis
Uasfgngton, M 20515
EDWARD J. MARKEY, MASSACHUSETTS
CHAIRMAN
April 26, 2010
The Honorable Lisa Jackson
Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20460
Dear Administrator Jackson:
A great deal of attention has been paid of late to hydraulic fracturing, or 'Tracking," a
decades-old technique that is increasingly being used by natural gas companies to drill
deep into the earth to access vast reserves of natural gas trapped in the shale rock
formations.
EPA has had extensive input into this practice. In 2004, reflecting concerns that the
mixture used to break apart the shale and release the trapped gas might include diesel,
EPA conducted a study into how fracking affects drinking water and "found no risk of
contamination of drinking water from fracturing."1 Nevertheless, to allay peoples' fears,
Congress exempted fracking from federal drinking water laws unless a company used
diesel as part of its fracking fluid - this would trigger provisions of the Safe Drinking
Water Act.2
In 2009, EPA initiated another study after receiving reports of possible contamination
from fracking in the residence wells of three towns in Wyoming. The results of this
study are expected in May.3
Last month, EPA announced it would launch a long and comprehensive study into the
effects of fracking on human health, the environment, and drinking water supplies.4 This
two-year, $2 million study, comes at a time when EPA has generated headlines for its
Mike Soraghan, Natural Gas: Oilfield company failed to report fracking violations to EPA -
documents, Greenwire (March 23, 2010), available at
http://www.eenews.net/Greenwire/2010/03/23/archive/! ?terms=epa+fracking+report+2004.
2	Id.
3	Phil Taylor, Oil and Gas: Wyo. Fracking Regs More 'Chicken Soup' Than Full Recipe Disclosure
- Regulator, Land Letter (April 15, 2010), available at
http://www.eenews.net/Landletter/2010/04/15/archive/5?terms=wyoming.
4	Katie Howell, Natural Gas: EPA begins study of fracturing's effects on water supplies, Greenwire
(March 18, 2010), available at http://www.eenews.net/Greenwire/2010/03/18/archive/!.
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Administrator Jackson
April 26, 2010
Page Two
efforts to take control of regulating emissions of greenhouse gases from U.S. industries
and vehicles in an effort to stave off effects of global warming.
EPA's actions on fracking thus far, and particularly the commencement of the 2-year
study, lead me to believe that the agency will usurp state control over fracking guidelines
and replace it with a federal standard. Despite EPA Assistant Administrator Paul
Anastas' comments about the study, that it "will be conducted through a transparent,
peer-reviewed process, with significant stakeholder input,"5 I remain skeptical of EPA's
actions. I have corresponded with EPA several times over the past year-and-a-half for
information and clarification on various issues, particularly on the justification for an
Endangerment Finding on greenhouse gases. EPA's replies have been less than
forthcoming.
EPA's potential over-reach on fracking guidelines comes with the support of
congressional Democrats who have called for increased regulation of the process. Earlier
this year, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Environment
held a hearing on the merger between ExxonMobil and XTO Energy Inc, one of the
leading producers of natural gas in the country, and a "pioneer in the production of
natural gas trapped in shale rock formations," according to Subcommittee Chairman
Edward Markey.6 Moreover, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry
Waxman and Chairman Markey have initiated an inquiry into fracking by questioning
oil-field service firms about the ingredients that make up their fracking liquid.7
Only a few days prior, Steve Heare, Director of EPA's Drinking Water Protection
Division, defended states' oversight of fracking guidelines when he said, "I have no
information that states aren't doing a good job already."8 He further elaborated that
despite claims by environmental organizations, "he hadn't seen any documented cases
that the hydro-fracking process was contaminating water supplies."9 In support of his
claim, according to the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States, since
Id.
House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Environment Hearing
transcript (January 20, 2010) available at
http://energycommerce.house.gov/Press_ 111 /20100120/transcript_01202010_ee.pdf.
7	Katie Howell, Natural Gas: Industry Reps Greet House Fracking Probe with Shrug, Greenwire
(February 22, 2010), available at
http://www.eenews.net/Greenwire/20I0/02/22/archive/37termssbracewell.
8	Ian Talley, EPA Official: State Regulators Doing Fine On Hydrofracking, Dow Jones Newswires
(February 15, 2010), available at http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/markets/industries/energy/epa-official-
sate-reguiators-doing-fine-hydrofracking/.
9	,.
Id.
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Administrator Jackson
April 26, 2010
Page Three
1949, more than 1 million wells have been fractured without a single incident to support a
claim of groundwater contamination.10
Repercussions from the study EPA is embarking on could profoundly impact the
continued growth of the fracking industry. Given EPA's wide latitude in pursuing this 2-
year study, I am concerned about what this will do to the progression of this technology
and natural resource as the industry may go on a holding pattern pending the outcome of
the study. Referencing the ExxonMobil/XTO merger, Exxon has filed specific contract
language with the SEC stating that the merger is contingent on Congress not passing laws
to make fracking "illegal or commercially impracticable."11
The significance of the EPA study is not lost on our competitors. Russian President
Dmitri Medvedev fully realizes the consequences for his country if the EPA study leads
to massive restrictions in fracking. Medvedev said last month that he would limit
Russian natural gas production until EPA concluded its study.12 This is because there
will be much less demand for Russian gas if the U.S. is able to drill for its own natural
gas with minimal federal interference. Conversely, if EPA decides to hamstring the
fracking industry, then we will bolster Russia's natural gas market - and those of other
nations - as we send our dollars overseas to import a resource we already possess.
Given that natural gas emits almost half the greenhouse gases that oil and coal do, there is
obviously a continued - and arguably greater - role for natural gas to play in our nation's
energy portfolio in the years ahead. EPA can help promote our nation's energy
independence by making it easier for the U.S. to rely on our domestic resources. We
should let states regulate fracking guidelines instead of establishing federal mandates, or
a government takeover of yet another industry, which may result in making fracking
"illegal or commercially impracticable."
In your reply, I would appreciate if you would identify the parameters of EPA's study,
and provide assurance that the agency will not assume control of fracking guidelines
from the states. Such an assurance would go a long way toward providing a sense of
Phil Taylor, Oil and Gas: Wyo. Fracking Regs More 'Chicken Soup' Than Full Recipe Disclosure
- Regulator, Land Letter (April 15, 2010), available at
http://www.eenews.net/Landletter/2010/04/15/archive/5?terms=wyoming.
11 Katie Howell, Natural Gas: Industry Reps Greet House Fracking Probe with Shrug, Greenwire
(February 22, 2010), available at
http://www.eenews.net/Greenwire/2010/02/22/archive/3?terms=bracewell.
12 Abrahm Lustgarten, Broad Scope of EPA's Fracturing Study Raises Ire of Gas Industry, Pro
Publica (April 7, 2010), available at http://www.propublica.org/feature/broad-scope-of-epas-fracturing-
study-raises-ire-of-gas-industry.
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Administrator Jackson
April 26, 2010
Page Four
predictability for the fracking industry, enabling it to plan for the future now, instead of
lying idle for the next two years.
Sincerely!
F. James Sehsenbrenner, Jr.
Ranking-Member
Select Committee on Energy Independence
and Global Warming
cc: The Honorable Ed Markey, Chairman
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