House votes to restrict federal regulation of fracing

The US House of Representatives approved legislation largely along party lines to keep the US Bureau of Land Management from imposing its own hydraulic fracturing regulations in states that already have their own requirements.

HR 2728 passed by 235 to 187 votes, following heated debate. Democrats charged it would keep drinking water supplies from being adequately protected and not let the federal government enforce existing regulations. Republicans argued it would help unconventional oil and gas production continue to grow safely without excessive, duplicative rules.

“States have successfully, efficiently, and safely been regulating this process for the past 60 years and imposing a ‘one-size-fits-all’ federal regulatory structure, as the Obama administration is attempting to do, is both unnecessary and simply will not work,” Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said following the Nov. 20 vote.

But the committee’s ranking minority member, Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), said the measure would strip federal agencies’ authority to enforce nearly every public health, safety, and environmental protection related to oil and gas drilling and its impacts.

States’ regulations vary tremendously, he continued. “Some require comprehensive pressure testing of the casing, which is essential. Some don’t. Some require producers contain the fluids which come back up. Others allow them to be stored in open, unlined pits,” DeFazio said.

EPA study provision

The final bill, which initially was cosponsored by two committee members from Texas, Republican Bill Flores and Democrat Henry Cuellar, incorporated provisions from another measure, HR 2850, which House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman LaMar Smith (R-Tex.) introduced on July 30.

Consequently, the House also approved a provision directing the US Environmental Protection Agency to submit the fracing study it has been conducting for 3 years at Congress’s request to additional scientific analysis before completing it by Sept. 30, 2016 when it passed HR 2728.

“In its zeal to regulate, EPA has rushed to link water contamination to hydraulic fracturing,” Smith said during the Nov. 20 floor debate. “It has made this claim in three high-profile cases, only to be forced to retract its statements after the facts have come out. EPA’s track record does not instill confidence in [its] ongoing studies of the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water.”

But committee member Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), who led the opposition debate, said EPA’s Science Advisory Board fully reviewed the proposed study and determined that it was generally appropriate and comprehensive. It also recommended that the study consider some risks, but warned that a full risk assessment could add 5-7 years to the process, she added.

“The proponents of this legislation mischaracterize EPA’s study plan as flawed for failing to include a comprehensive risk assessment,” Bonamici said. “That position is not consistent with the conclusions of the highly qualified scientists, researchers, and industry representatives who are members of the EPA’s Independent Science Advisory Board, and importantly, Title II could delay the release of this very important study.”

Earlier bills

HR 2728 was considered immediately after the House passed another bill, HR 1965, by 228 to 192 votes which was aimed at reforming other Obama administration oil and gas policies.

“In recent years we have seen a boom in energy jobs and economic growth on state and private lands,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), who chairs the Natural Resource Committee’s Energy and Power Subcommittee and introduced the original bill in May. “I believe the only reason we haven’t seen that same dynamic growth on federal lands is because of excess regulations. My bill would reduce the federal red tape and frivolous lawsuits that act as stumbling blocks to job creation and energy development.”

The measure the House approved incorporated four more bills, adding provisions that would require the Secretary of the Interior to develop a federal onshore energy production strategy every 4 years, nullify the Obama administration’s February 2013 plan for managing the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, give the Interior secretary authority to conduct Internet-based auctions for onshore federal leases, and encourage more Indian tribal energy resource development by blocking any federal fracing requirement unless Indian landowners consent to it.

The House also agreed to consider HR 1900 when it reconvened on Nov. 21. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) introduced the original bill on May 9. It would amend the Natural Gas Act by requiring the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issue a decision on a proposed natural gas pipeline within 12 months of receiving a completed application. The House passed the measure by 252 to 165 votes on Nov. 21.

Prospects for any of the approved bills becoming law looked dim. The US Senate appears unlikely to consider them. US Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) introduced a companion bill to HR 2728 on Nov. 20, but the White House has said it would veto the measure aimed at limiting new federal fracing regulations.

Passage applauded

Passage of HR 2728 nevertheless drew cheers from oil and gas industry and other groups.

“This legislation safeguards oil and gas development on federal lands by empowering states to regulate energy development, as they have been doing safely and responsibly,” observed Independent Petroleum Association of American Pres. Barry Russell.

“The long history of effective state regulation demonstrates that a one-size-fits-all federal requirement is unnecessary and will not increase environmental protection,” he said. Russell also applauded passage of the provisions from HR 2850 dealing with EPA’s fracing study.

Erik Milito, the American Petroleum Institute’s upstream and industry operations director, said, “Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling are safe, proven technologies that have allowed the US to outpace Russia as the world’s number one producer of oil and natural gas.

“Hydraulic fracturing’s 60-year track record of safety—achieved under the stewardship of state regulators—has been recognized by both current and former Obama administration officials, and this legislation will preserve state leadership against unnecessary or duplicative federal regulations,” Milito added.

Christopher Guith, vice-president of policy at the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, said, “Today’s vote in the House sends a strong signal against federal government interference in America’s most promising economic opportunity: energy development. We appreciate the support of a bipartisan majority of House members and look forward to working with Congress to ensure a policy framework that will allow our nation to take full advantage of our energy opportunities.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX crude oil stays positive on lower rig count

02/03/2015 Oil prices on the New York and London markets closed higher Feb. 2 on positive momentum generated by a falling US rig count, suggesting cuts in pro...

Obama’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget recycles oil tax increases

02/02/2015 US President Barack Obama has proposed his federal budget for fiscal 2016 that he said was designed to help a beleaguered middle class take advanta...

MOL absorbs Eni’s Romanian retail assets

02/02/2015

MOL Group, Budapest, has completed the acquisition of Eni Romania, including 42 service stations to be rebranded under the MOL name.

CNOOC subsidiary inks deal for grassroots refinery

02/02/2015 Hebei Zhongjie Petrochemical Group Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), has entered into a $700 million agreement w...

Pessimism mounts over UK offshore industry

02/02/2015

Pessimism about the UK offshore oil and gas industry is gaining momentum.

EnLink agrees to purchase Coronado Midstream for $600 million

02/02/2015 EnLink Midstream has agreed to acquire Coronado Midstream Holdings LLC, which owns natural gas gathering and processing facilities in the Permian b...

Antero trimming, delaying Marcellus drilling

02/02/2015 Antero Resources Corp., Denver, has announced a $1.8 billion budget for 2015, which is down 41% from 2014. The independent said it plans to defer c...

Woodside gets NEB approval for British Columbia LNG exports

02/02/2015 Woodside Energy Holdings Pty. Ltd. has received approval from Canada’s National Energy Board on its application for a 25-year natural gas export li...

Syncrude sees additional $260-400 million in possible budget cuts

02/02/2015 The estimate for capital expenditures has also been reduced to $451 million net to COS, which includes $104 million of remaining expenditures on ma...
White Papers

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...

Accurate Thermo-Fluid Simulation in Real Time Environments

The crux of any task undertaken in System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis is striking a balance between ti...

6 ways for Energy, Chemical and Oil and Gas Companies to Avert the Impending Workforce Crisis

As many as half of the skilled workers in energy, chemical and oil & gas industries are quickly he...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts

On Demand

Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST


The Future of US Refining

Fri, Feb 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Feb. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on the future of US refining as various forces this year conspire to pull the industry in different directions. Lower oil prices generally reduce feedstock costs, but they have also lowered refiners’ returns, as 2015 begins with refined products priced at lows not seen in years. If lower per-barrel crude prices dampen production of lighter crudes among shale plays, what will happen to refiners’ plans to export more barrels of lighter crudes? And as always, refiners will be affected by government regulations, particularly those that suppress demand, increase costs, or limit access to markets or supply.

register:WEBCAST


Oil & Gas Journal’s Forecast & Review/Worldwide Pipeline Construction 2015

Fri, Jan 30, 2015

The  Forecast & Review/Worldwide Pipeline Construction 2015 Webcast will address Oil & Gas Journal’s outlooks for the oil market and pipeline construction in a year of turbulence. Based on two annual special reports, the webcast will be presented by OGJ Editor Bob Tippee and OGJ Managing Editor-Technology Chris Smith.
The Forecast & Review portion of the webcast will identify forces underlying the collapse in crude oil prices and assess prospects for changes essential to recovery—all in the context of geopolitical pressures buffeting the market.

register:WEBCAST


Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected