Energy & Environment

Official defends fracking rules for federal lands

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A top administration official is defending new standards for hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, on land owned by the federal government and Indian tribes.

Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze told lawmakers on Wednesday that new rules are necessary to “address modern practices” such as fracking and to account for the increase in drilling on federal lands.

“During this administration, oil production from those lands has increased 81 percent,” Kornze told the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. “The hydraulic fracturing rule is critical to meeting that responsibility.”

{mosads}”It is necessitated the BLM revisits their rules,” he added, noting the rules were last updated 30 years ago.

Green groups have raised the alarm about fracking, arguing that it poses a risk of polluting water sources. Republicans, though, credit the process with the boom in energy production and say environmental fears are overblown.

The new federal regulation has been held up by a federal court as states push to overturn it.

Lawmakers grilled Kornze, arguing that the federal move duplicated state regulatory efforts and placed new burdens on tribal authorities.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) questioned if hydraulic fracturing was as damaging as green groups claim.

“Did you not care that the EPA found there was no groundwater problems with fracking?” asked Gohmert. “Then you come in, in search of a problem with your solution, and it is outrageous.”

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) questioned duplication efforts, saying that “states were proactive in regulating the process of hydraulic fracturing, and they were successful in doing so.”

Other GOP lawmakers questioned if the bureau had the authority to implement the new fracking rules.

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said the bureau had ignored his requests for more information, saying it seemed like the agency was saying “screw you.”

Kornze defended the agency’s efforts and said businesses regularly must abide by both state and federal regulations. He said the agency was receptive to public concerns.

“We work very hard to make sure the public’s voice is heard,” he told lawmakers.

Democrats on the panel also expressed support for the rules.

“This rule does not do as much as it should, but it also doesn’t do half as much as the Republicans claim,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). “It is much better than nothing.” 

Tags John Fleming Louie Gohmert Rob Bishop

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