States Pressure EPA ; Hydraulic Fracturing: Oversight Battle Pruitt Warns against Back- Door Grab for Federal Role

By Walton, Rod | Tulsa World (Tulsa, OK), May 7, 2013 | Go to article overview

States Pressure EPA ; Hydraulic Fracturing: Oversight Battle Pruitt Warns against Back- Door Grab for Federal Role


Walton, Rod, Tulsa World (Tulsa, OK)


A letter by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and signed by his counterparts in 12 other energy-producing states tells the EPA it should not allow threats of litigation by six Northeast states to provide a back-door entry for federal oversight of fracking.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been studying the effects of hydraulic fracturing but so far has stayed out of an enforcement role.

The Pruitt letter, however, noted that New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Delaware and Rhode Island have threatened to sue the agency and perhaps force it into a regional regulatory role that eventually could set a precedent.

"EPA has appropriately declined to regulate methane emissions from new and existing oil and gas facilities under the Clean Air Act," Pruitt wrote. "It is abundantly clear that EPA should not succumb to the pressure intended by the northeastern states."

In addition, Pruitt wrote, any negotiations should include states that want oversight of fracking and drilling to remain a state responsibility.

Fracking is a method for unlocking oil and natural gas from deep shale formations.

Pruitt's letter also was signed by attorneys general from Texas, Alabama, Arizona, Montana, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, Wyoming and West Virginia, as well as Indiana's environmental management commissioner.

The potential federal battle pits oil- and gas-producing states against states that are wary of the potential environmental impact of fracturing, which involves blasting a water, sand and chemical slurry into shale formations. Part of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale lies beneath New York, but that state has banned the practice since 2008.

Mike Terry, president of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, has argued that his state has effectively regulated the drilling practice for decades. He sees trouble with the EPA if the agency comes to agreements with the northeastern states and extends those rules nationwide.

"President Obama has not hidden the fact that he would like to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, and his administration has called for the repeal of long-standing tax provisions for oil and natural gas producers each year he has held office," Terry said. …

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