Interior secretary criticizes fracking bans

Interior Secretary Sally JewellSally JewellOvernight Regulation: Trump administration lifts Obama freeze on federal coal mining Trump administration ends Obama's coal-leasing freeze Interior secretary reopens federal coal mining MORE criticized local and state bans on hydraulic fracturing, saying they create confusion for the oil and natural gas industries.

Jewell, who oversees the federal government’s various public land agencies, also said fracking bans often come as a result of what she sees as bad scientific decisions that incorrectly find safety or health problems associated with fracking, radio station KQED reported.

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“I would say that is the wrong way to go,” Jewell told KQED Friday about local fracking bans. 

“I think it’s going to be very difficult for industry to figure out what the rules are if different counties have different rules.”

Jewell said local and statewide bans on fracking often stem from fears about the controversial practice, in which drillers pump fluids into wells at high pressure to break shale and extract more oil or gas.

But often those fears are not founded in sound science, she said.

“There is a lot of misinformation about fracking,” Jewell told KQED of New York’s decision last month to ban fracking. “I think that localized efforts or statewide efforts in many cases don’t understand the science behind it, and I think there needs to be more science.”

Jewell said she is relying on federal scientists, including those from the U.S. Geological Survey, to inform her decisions about fracking on federal land.

In California, voters in San Benito and Mendocino counties approved fracking bans in November by wide margins, joining some other communities around the country including Denton, Texas.

The Obama administration is currently in the final stages of writing regulations that would, for the first time, regulate fracking on federal land by companies leasing it.