Some Members of Congress still on the wrong track regarding chemical disclosure of hydraulic fracturing chemicals

The U.S. House of Representatives has a Natural Gas Caucus, comprised of Representatives interested in promoting the use of natural gas. The Caucus is preparing a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, opposing any new regulations for natural gas extraction at this time.

We hope Members of Congress choose not to sign this letter, because it contains misinformation, and we urge the Natural Gas Caucus to go back to the drawing board. If your Member of Congress is on the list of members of the Natural Gas Caucus, please ask them to refrain from signing this letter. 

Here are some erroneous statements in the letter:

  • “…..the vast majority of scientific evidence shows hydraulic fracturing to be safe….”

FACT: NRDC is not aware of even one scientific study that shows hydraulic fracturing to be safe.

  • “…..the vast majority of scientific evidence shows hydraulic fracturing to be….. properly managed and regulated at the state level.”

FACT: State laws and regulations are incredibly outdated and haven’t kept up with the growth in the industry or its technology, unable to protect citizens. That is why new rules have been put into place in WY and CO and are being considered in a few other states--but those are only a handful of the dozens of states where natural gas is produced, and they have been put into place after complaints have been made and communities are outraged. Not only are laws and rules out of date, but enforcement is grossly inadequate. From 2004-2008, new wells drilled each year in 22 states increased 42%, but enforcement staff grew only 9%. For example, Texas has 250,000 wells and only 83 field inspectors. Nearly half of the wells hadn't been inspected between 2001-2006. Thirty percent of spills were inspected late or not at all.

  • The letter implies that new health and environmental protections will be “regulatory burdens,” “increase energy costs for consumers,” “suppress job creation,” and “hinder our nation’s ability to become more energy independent.” 

Wow. I am surprised they didn’t also claim that protecting our health and environment would force all Americans to live in caves without electricity or heat. The fact is, Wyoming’s new rules require companies to tell the public what chemicals they are using in the hydraulic fracturing process. Not one company opposed this rule and the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, an industry association, has said it is not opposed to the Wyoming rules being instituted at the federal level. There is no evidence that disclosure of chemicals will kill jobs or raise energy prices.

This letter reminds me of statements from some Members of Congress that I blogged about recently. Like the previous statements, this letter does not actually reflect anyone’s reality of what is happening in the field—not even industry’s. As NRDC's Executive Director Peter Lehner has explained, those who claim that Americans must choose between their jobs and clean drinking water are people who for some reason don’t want industry and environmentalists to talk and come up with win-win solutions. But we know the win-win solutions are out there. Let’s focus on those instead of perpetuating misinformation.