Exxon CEO to tout safety of ‘fracking’ at House hearing

“With recent advances in extended reach horizontal drilling, combined with the time-tested technology of hydraulic fracturing – a process in use for more than 60 years – we can now find and produce unconventional natural gas supplies miles below the surface in a safe, efficient and environmentally responsible manner,” his testimony states.

The increasing viability of shale gas has helped boost proved reserves in the U.S. to their highest level in over 30 years, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.

But environmentalists are fearful that increased use of “fracking” – which involves high-pressure injections of chemicals, water and sand to break apart rock formations – will pollute water supplies.

Exxon, in paperwork on the XTO acquisition filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, says it will back out of the deal if Congress makes fracking “illegal or commercially impractical.”

Several Democrats are seeking expanded oversight and regulation. Bills introduced in both chambers would require regulation of the practice under the Safe Drinking Water Act and disclosure of chemicals used.

Tillerson’s testimony says the merger would “create the opportunity for more jobs and investment” in natural gas production, and touts the environmental attributes of natural gas. Burning natural gas emits far less carbon dioxide than oil and coal.

The testimony also calls for “stable tax and regulatory policies.”