States would remain primary fracing regulators under Hoeven bill

US Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) said he will introduce a bill, the Empower States Act, to ensure that states remain primary regulators of hydraulic fracturing and similar oil and gas activities.

“The legislation also recognizes that states have a long record of effectively regulating oil and gas development, including [fracing], with good environmental stewardship,” he said in Bismarck, ND, on Sept. 18.

If the bill became law, before a federal agency or department drafted any new regulation relating to oil and gas development, it would have to hold a hearing and consult with the state, Indian tribe, and local government that would be affected, explained Hoeven, who is a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee member.

He noted that to prevent job losses or harmful effects on consumers or the economy, the federal agency also would have to develop an energy and economic impact statement identifying any potentially adverse effects on supplies, reliability, and price, and the potential for losses of jobs and revenue to individual states’ general and education funds.

The federal agency also would have to show that a state or tribe does not have an existing alternative, and that the new regulation is needed to prevent immediate harm to human health and the environment, Hoeven continued.

This would prevent arbitrary decisions by the US Environmental Protection Agency and let each state develop regulations to meet its unique geological circumstances, he said.

Finally, the bill would let a state or tribe seek redress in a federal court within the state or the District of Columbia, and would require the court to thoroughly review the regulation and not simply rely on EPA’s findings, Hoeven said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.), the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s ranking minority member, was an immediate cosponsor of the legislation.

“Given the differences in geology and drilling techniques around the country, it makes sense to let the states take the lead on regulating oil and gas development,” she said as she and Hoeven concluded a 2-day tour of North Dakota’s oil fields.

Responding to the bill’s introduction, American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard said jobs and energy production would benefit by its emphasis on states as fracing regulators.

“Hydraulic fracturing has been used safely for more than 60 years, and the states are well-equipped to ensure that record continues,” he said on Sept. 19. “The Empower States Act recognizes that states are getting the job done when it comes to robust regulation of [fracing].”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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