Dems tell White House to speed up fracking guidance

House Democrats want the Obama administration to finalize tough guidance for hydraulic fracturing operations, also known as fracking, that use diesel to develop oil and natural-gas resources. 

The top Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee and its Oversight subcommittee told the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in a letter on Friday that the guidance is long overdue.

Without rules of the road from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), they write, energy developers have been unrestrained.

“Diesel fuel is toxic and should not be used in fracking without careful environmental review under the Safe Drinking Water Act,” Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) told OMB Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell in the letter.

“We urge you to review EPA’s guidance expeditiously so that the agency can finalize strong, clear guidance for permit writers for the remaining cases in which drilling companies opt to use hydraulic fracturing fluids containing diesel fuel.”

Fracking involves shooting high-pressured jets of water, sand and chemicals into rock formations to release trapped hydrocarbons.

In 2005, Congress decided that some some clean-water restrictions would not apply to hydraulic fracturing operations unless they used diesel as part of the mix injected into the earth.

The EPA drew up guidance for fracking that used diesel in September, and sent it over to the OMB for a final interagency review.

"We urge you to finalize this long overdue guidance expeditiously and to reject any industry efforts to weaken or delay it," the lawmakers wrote on Friday.

Though the OMB has a 90-day limit to review most regulations, it does not have any deadlines for releasing guidance to the public.

-- This story was updated on Oct. 30 to correct the OMB's rules for reviewing guidance documents.