Lawmakers: Back off on drilling regs

A bipartisan group of House members is pressuring Interior Secretary Ken Salazar not to impose new regulations on a controversial natural-gas drilling method called hydraulic fracturing.

Thirty-two members of the Congressional Natural Gas Caucus wrote to Salazar on Wednesday urging him to back off until the Environmental Protection Agency completes a review of the environmental and health effects of the technique dubbed “fracking.”

Their letter warns against “hastily proposed regulatory burdens” that would increase energy costs.

Interior is mulling rules that would force companies to disclose the chemicals they use when employing the technique on federal lands.

“As members of the Congressional Natural Gas Caucus, we write to express our concerns about reports that the Department of the Interior may seek to impose new regulations on the natural gas extraction process on federal lands and urge you to not institute any new regulatory burdens before the completion of the 2010-2012 Environmental Protection Agency study on hydraulic fracturing,” states the letter from the group, led by Reps. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Dan Boren (D-Okla.).

Fracking involves high-pressure underground injections of chemicals, water and sand to break apart rock formations and enable trapped gas to flow. The method is helping to enable a boom in U.S. gas development but also raising fears of groundwater contamination. Industry groups call the concerns badly overblown and say their methods prevent water pollution.

Salazar’s plan has already come under fire from the new chairmen of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee.

The new Natural Gas Caucus letter claims that fracking is safe.

“[T]he vast majority of scientific evidence shows hydraulic fracturing to be safe, less resource-intensive for the environment than traditional methods, and properly managed and regulated at the state level,” the letter states.

“Consequently, hastily proposed regulatory burdens on natural gas will increase energy costs for consumers, suppress job creation in a promising energy sector, and hinder our nation’s ability to become more energy independent."