Scalise, Fleming, La. House To Waxman, Markey: Go Away And Leave Us Alone

While the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce awaits responses to letters it sent to natural gas producers as a precursor to hearings later this month on whether federal regulation is warranted on hydraulic fracturing, Louisiana’s congressional delegation and state legislators are taking a very vigorous and aggressive stance in fighting Washington’s attempts to interfere with the promise of the mammoth Haynesville Shale natural gas play and the coming energy boom it can mean for the state.

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Metairie), who is a member of both the Energy and Commerce committee (chaired by Henry Waxman) and more specifically the Energy and Environment subcommittee chaired by Edward Markey, had an excellent op/ed piece in the Shreveport Times Monday stressing that the efforts to impose federal control over the fracking technique put thousands of high-paying jobs in the lurch. It’s a well-written, passionate missive which captures the sense of frustration and outrage felt by many in and out of the state’s energy sector who understand the potential of the shale gas revolution to create an economic engine for Louisiana and the nation as a whole…

Instead of a comprehensive national energy policy that would create jobs, this administration and the liberals running Congress are trying to ram through a “cap and trade” national energy tax that would ship millions of jobs overseas and raise energy prices on American families. And these same people continue to threaten our energy security through attempts to put an end to critical technologies like fracturing.

Turning the regulation of fracturing over to the EPA is not only unnecessary but would represent nothing more than a one-size-fits-all power grab by those who oppose responsible, 21st-century American energy production. Louisiana, along with virtually every other energy-producing state, already has comprehensive laws in place to protect drinking water sources and ensure that shale gas production does not compromise the environment.

Because of these effective state protections — and the commitment from industry — fracturing has been used in more than 1 million wells throughout the U.S. without a single case of groundwater contamination. Not one in 60 years. The EPA confirmed this fact at a recent Senate hearing. And just weeks ago, a top EPA drinking-water official said, “State regulators are doing a good job overseeing hydrofracking, and there’s no evidence the process causes water contamination.”
Fracturing is not only a safe way of increasing our nation’s domestic energy supply, but it is a proven way to reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, create good American jobs and keep energy prices stable for struggling families, senior citizens and small businesses.

The American people deserve common-sense solutions that will help redirect our weakened economy. We should promote ideas that create jobs and harness — not stifle — the American ingenuity that has helped us become the greatest nation in the world.

Another member of Louisiana’s congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. John Fleming (R-Minden), took to the House floor last week to denounce Waxman and Markey’s efforts to intrude on fracking…

Scalise’s piece in the Times and Fleming’s speech on the House floor aren’t the only developments on the issue arising from the actions of Louisiana elected officials. House Concurrent Resolution 38, recently filed in advance of the coming Louisiana legislative session, reflects a bipartisan and statewide statement to Congress that Waxman and Markey should keep their hands off fracking and shale gas. The diversity of HCR 38’s authorship shows that Louisiana speaks with a strong and unified voice on the issue, and expectations are that it will pass both houses either unanimously or very near to it.

HCR 38’s authors include a couple of Republicans and five Democrats – Joe Harrison (R-Gray), Bobby Badon (D-Carencro), Robert Billiot (D-Westwego), Henry Burns (R-Haughton), Jerry Gisclair (D-Larose), Reed Henderson (D-Chalmette) and Karen Gaudet St. Germain (D-Plaquemine). It’s pretty strong stuff for a legislative resolution…

To memorialize the United States Congress to take such actions as are necessary to preserve and maintain the exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act for hydraulic fracturing.

WHEREAS, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was originally passed by congress in 1974 to protect public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supply; and

WHEREAS, since the 1974 enactment of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has never interpreted hydraulic fracturing as constituting “underground injection” within the definitions of the SDWA; and

WHEREAS, in 2004, the EPA published a final report summarizing a study that evaluated the potential threat to underground drinking water sources from hydraulic fracturing of coal bed methane production wells and the EPA concluded that “the injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into coal bed methane wells poses minimal threat” to underground sources of drinking water and that “additional or further study is not warranted at this time . . .”; and

WHEREAS, in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the United States Congress explicitly exempted hydraulic fracturing from the provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act; and

WHEREAS, the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) conducted a survey of oil and gas producing states which found that there were no known cases of groundwater contamination associated with hydraulic fracturing; and

WHEREAS, hydraulic fracturing is currently, and has been for decades, a common practice used in exploration and production by the oil and gas industry in all IOGCC member states without groundwater damage; and

WHEREAS, approximately thirty-five thousand wells are hydraulically fractured in the United States annually, and close to a million wells have been hydraulically fractured in the United States since the technique’s inception, all with no known harm to groundwater; and

WHEREAS, the regulation of oil and gas exploration and production activities, including hydraulic fracturing, has traditionally been the responsibility of the states and the Safe Drinking Water Act was never intended to grant to the federal government authority to regulate oil and gas drilling and production operations, such as “hydraulic fracturing”, which is regulated under the Underground Injection Control program; and

WHEREAS, the individual member states of the IOGCC have adopted comprehensive laws and regulations to provide safe operations and to protect the nation’s drinking water sources, and have trained personnel to effectively regulate oil and gas exploration and production; and

WHEREAS, production of coal seam natural gas, natural gas from shale formations, and natural gas from tight conventional reservoirs is becoming increasingly important to our domestic natural gas supply and will be even more important in the future; and

WHEREAS, continued and expanded domestic production of natural gas will help ensure that the United States continues on the path to energy independence; and

WHEREAS, hydraulic fracturing plays a major role in the development of virtually all unconventional oil and gas resources and regulation of hydraulic fracturing as underground injection under the SDWA would impose significant administrative costs on the states and substantially increase the cost of drilling oil and gas wells with no resulting environmental benefits; and

WHEREAS, in addition to increasing the costs both to the producers of oil and gas resources and the states for regulation of hydraulic fracturing as underground injection under the SDWA, the costs to the consumer would also increase if hydraulic fracturing was limited or prohibited.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature of Louisiana does hereby memorialize the United States Congress to take such actions as are necessary to preserve and maintain the exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act for hydraulic fracturing.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this Resolution be transmitted to the presiding officers of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States of America and to each member of the Louisiana congressional delegation.

Back to Congress – also on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and in fact also on the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee, is Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-Napoleonville) – who is running for the U.S. Senate and last week quit a position on the House Budget Committee for the express purpose of focusing on his work at Energy and Commerce.

A search of press releases on Melancon’s congressional website shows no comment on hydraulic fracturing in 2010. Or in 2009.



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