Members of Congress support disclosure of hydraulic fracturing chemicals used on public land

Earlier this week, 46 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in support of a recent announcement.

Last month, Secretary Salazar announced that the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management will be considering a policy regarding disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. At a public forum, federal officials made the point that we do not have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment—we can have both.

The letter from 46 House Members accurately emphasizes that public disclosure of dangerous chemcals is a "critical step forward in encouraging the oil and gas industry to be more transparent and responsibly address the potential implications of hydraulic fracturing on water supplies and public health."

Unfortunately, a second group of House Members is on the wrong path. The House Natural Gas Caucus sent its own letter to Secretary Salazar last week, stating that disclosure will increase energy costs, kill jobs, hinder energy production, and that "....the vast majority of scientific evidence shows hydraulic fracturing to be safe.”

Unfortunately, these statements are not accurate. I've already blogged on this Natural Gas Caucus letter, making the point that there is no evidence that chemical disclosure will kill jobs or increase energy costs. Such disclosure is already in effect in Wyoming and has not created any crisis there.

Regarding scientific evidence that proves that hydraulic fracturing is safe--there isn't any independent scientific evidence. Even the industry's main trade association, the American Petroleum Institute, is on the record confirming that fact. In a news article, an API spokesman stated, when asked if there were any studies on the safety of hydraulic fracturing: "I’m just not sure that that study is out there."

The letter from 46 House Members in support of Salazar's announcement, led by New York Representative Maurice Hinchey and Colorado Representatives Diana DeGette and Jared Polis, gets it right: "The Interior Department must be vigilant in ensuring that oil and gas development is done in accordance with safe and environmentally sound standards. Should we fail to do this, we will pay a heavy price."