House readies vote to thwart ‘fracking’ regs

The House will likely vote next week on GOP bills that would block Interior Department regulation of oil and gas “fracking” and set new deadlines for drilling permit approvals.

On fracking, Rep. Bill Flores’s (R-Texas) plan is the latest GOP pushback against Interior efforts to toughen regulation of fracking on federal and tribal lands.

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Interior is preparing rules that require disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process, and also create standards around well integrity and management of so-called flowback water.

The Flores bill blocks Interior from enforcing the rules in states that already have their own rules or permit requirements — even if they are weaker than the federal mandates.

Critics of the fracking rules, which include oil and gas industry groups, say they would create costly red tape and that state-level oversight is sufficient.

The House is also slated to vote on Rep. Doug Lamborn’s (R-Colo.) bill that’s aimed at making it easier for oil and gas companies to obtain drilling permits on federal lands.

It gives Interior 60 days to approve or reject onshore drilling permits, and under the bill, permits are “deemed” approved if Interior doesn’t act.

It also sets a floor on how much acreage Interior must offer for onshore oil and gas development.

Another provision in the broad “Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act” would make it tougher for activists to fight drilling projects.

It creates a $5,000 dollar fee to lodge a formal protest of leases or drilling permits awarded to oil and gas producers.

A senior Interior official criticized the bill in testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee in May, saying it “mandates unreasonable timeframes” for drilling permits and that the $5,000 fee creates an “inappropriate economic barrier.”

The House Rules Committee is slated to meet next Monday evening to decide which amendments to the bills will come up during floor debate.