GOP lawmakers say fracking study could hurt job growth

A group of GOP House energy leaders advised Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusWorking for lasting change Former HHS secretary Sebelius joins marijuana industry group More than 200 Obama officials sign letter supporting Biden's stimulus plan MORE to exercise caution in a possible study on the health impacts of natural-gas drilling.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering examining a potential link between hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and drinking water contamination.

The lawmakers sent a letter to Sebelius Friday stating that such a study could stymie job growth if not properly executed. They expressed concern in the letter that naturally occurring substances in groundwater could be improperly labeled as contaminants.

“Despite the significant growth of natural gas development, we are greatly concerned that the scientific objectivity of the Department of Health and Human Services is being subverted and countless jobs could be in jeopardy,” the lawmakers said.

Signatories included House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (Mich.); Rep. Ed WhitfieldWayne (Ed) Edward WhitfieldBottom Line Why Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog What Azerbaijan wants from Israel? MORE (Ky.), the committee’s Energy and Power subcommittee chairman; Rep. Joe Pitts (Pa.), the committee’s Health subcommittee chairman; Rep. John Shimkus (Ill.), the committee’s Environment and the Economy subcommittee chairman; and past committee chairman Rep. Joe Barton (Texas).

Fracking is the drilling method credited with driving the nation’s shale gas boom. It involves injecting a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals into tight rock formations to tap hard-to-reach gas deposits.

Environmentalists, along with many congressional Democrats, argue fracking pollutes drinking water.

But industry, along with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, says the practice is safe. They contend state regulators have ably handled fracking oversight, and that connections between fracking and groundwater contamination are faulty.

The Obama administration also has praised states’ regulatory record on fracking, while simultaneously calling for new regulations on federal lands.

The Environmental Protection Agency already is conducting a national study on fracking’s effects on drinking water. A progress report on that study is expected by the end of the year.