House Dems Want EPA to Reopen Investigation on Fracking
Eight House Democrats sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on April 1, requesting the agency reopen an investigation into the effects of fracking on groundwater contamination. Specifically, there were three major cases of suspected contamination — in Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and Texas — and the EPA has largely abandoned the issue and left regulation to the states. The Democrats called on the EPA to step up and protect communities in those states from the effects of fracking.
“While we appreciate that states act as the major source of regulation for unconventional drilling operations, we believe the Environmental Protection Agency has a key role to play in oil and gas development. Despite the industry’s exemptions from some of our bedrock environmental laws, the EPA does have the power to help ease the burden of directly impacted communities,” they wrote in a letter to EPA on April 1. The letter was signed by Matt Cartwright (Pa.), Alan Lowenthal (Calif.), Jared Huffman (Calif.), Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), Keith Ellison (Minn.), David Scott (Ga.), Mark Pocan (Wis.), and Rush Holt (N.J.).
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Although their request will likely go unheeded, it does highlight the degree to which the federal government has taken a back seat to regulating shale gas, letting the issue fall to the states. Of course, that is what the industry prefers, but it also appears to be the Obama administration’s preference as well. President Obama has calculated that shale gas is necessary for his broader clean energy agenda to work. He has positioned shale gas as a central pillar in the country’s transition towards cleaner energy.
That has meant that he has called off the environmental watchdog, at least when it comes to fracking (on coal, he is clearly unleashing the EPA to crack down.) The EPA conducted a three-year study in Pavillion, Wyoming, and in a December 2011 publication, the EPA found evidence that tied fracking to groundwater contamination. Yet, on June 20, 2013, the EPA decided not to follow up on the issue, and abandon its work in Pavillion, passing off the responsibility to the state of Wyoming.