GOP senators introduce bills to curb federal regulation of fracing

Two US senators introduced separate bills aimed at restricting federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing in onshore oil and gas activities. Both measures were referred to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where they may be combined before being considered.

Two US senators introduced separate bills aimed at restricting federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing in onshore oil and gas activities. Both measures were referred to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where they may be combined before being considered.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah) introduced S. 316 on Feb. 6, with Wyoming’s two Senate members—Republicans John A. Barrasso and Mike Enzi—as cosponsors. “This bill does nothing to stop the federal government from implementing fracing standards in states where none exist. It simply says that regulations from the federal government cannot trump state action already in place,” Hatch said.

S. 334, which Sen. James M. Inhofe (Okla.), introduced on Feb. 7 with eight GOP cosponsors, goes farther. It would explicitly make states the only authorized entity to regulate fracing anywhere within their borders, including on federal lands, its sponsor said. “States have regulated the hydraulic fracturing process with great expertise since the first job was done in Duncan, Okla., in 1948,” Inhofe said. “[They] are doing a great job, and we should keep them in the driver’s seat.”

Inhofe also introduced S. 335, which would give states the right to develop energy resources on federal land within their borders, excluding American Indian lands, national parks, units of the National Wildlife Refuge system, and congressionally designated wilderness areas. It had four cosponsors, and also was referred to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Both bills were reintroductions of measures Inhofe introduced in 2016.

The US Department of the Interior issued a final rule to govern hydraulic fracturing on onshore public and Indian tribal lands nearly 2 years ago (OGJ Online, Mar. 20, 2015). A federal district judge in Wyoming set it aside in 2016 after finding the agency did not have the necessary congressional authority to impose it (OGJ Online, June 22, 2016).

The Denver-based Western Energy Alliance, which sued with the Independent Petroleum Association of America to overturn the rule, remains tied up along with the States of Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado, and Utah defending the judge’s decision.

“Rather than wasting considerable time and money on the part of the government and plaintiffs appealing the decision, Congress could simply clarify that indeed, the federal government has no authority when states are already successfully regulating fracing,” WEA Pres. Kathleen Sgamma said in a reference to Hatch’s bill.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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