In one week in November, the House of Representatives voted to pass three energy bills (H.R. 2728, H.R. 1900, and H.R. 1965) simultaneously introduced by House Republicans to facilitate oil and gas development. Notably, Rep. Bill Flores’ (R-TX) bill, H.R. 2728, would block the Department of the Interior (DOI) from regulating hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking,” on public lands in states that already have their own fracking regulations in place. The bill is expected to be defeated in the Senate.
Republicans said that states have safely and effectively regulated fracking for decades, and that the Obama administration has shown no evidence proving otherwise. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) called federal regulation of fracking “redundant” and a waste of time and money that would slow down energy production and job creation. On the other hand, Democrats said that passing the bill would increase the risk of adverse health effects for people in less regulated states. Although some states, like California and Illinois [PDF], have recently passed stricter legislation governing fracking, many still don’t require companies to disclose what chemicals they are pumping underground in the extraction process. Those states that do require disclosure generally allow exceptions for trade secrets.
The DOI regulation would require full disclosure of all chemicals used during fracking and will likely also address well integrity and flowback water management. Rep. Flores’ bill would prevent the DOI from enforcing any federal fracking regulation on any federal or Indian lands in states that have passed their own fracking rules. The bill would also require that an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study on fracking include “objective estimates of the probability, uncertainty and consequence of each identified impact, taking into account the risk management practices of states and industry.”
Ultimately, 12 Democrats voted for the bill, with two Republicans voting against it. The Obama administration has threatened to veto the bill, saying it would hinder the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)’s efforts to create fracking standards.