IPAMS chides Congresswoman for letter about hydraulic fracturing

The Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States has asked US Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) to stop spreading misinformation in a letter to other members of Congress about hydraulic fracturing in an apparent effort to pass a bill she and Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) introduced on June 9.

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 17 -- The Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States has asked US Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) to stop spreading misinformation in a letter to other members of Congress about hydraulic fracturing in an apparent effort to pass a bill she and Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) introduced on June 9.

“When we met with you in late September, you told us that your intent for the legislation was to produce a scientific study so that regulators have the data they need to ensure fracing remains a safe activity while still enabling development of American natural gas and oil,” IPAMS Pres. George Solich told DeGette in a Nov. 12 letter that the association released on Nov. 16.

DeGette and Hinchey’s bill, HR 2766, would move hydraulic fracturing regulatory enforcement from states to the federal government under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). “While we were puzzled that you would introduce a bill that would add an onerous and expensive layer of regulation onto a safe procedure, we took away the message that you were not going to actively advance your bill at this time,” said Solich, who also is chief executive of Cordilera Energy Partners III LLC in Denver.

He said IPAMS was surprised to discover that DeGette sent a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter to other members of Congress on Nov. 4 seeking more cosponsors for her bill and citing a New York Times editorial, which Solich said was written “with a clear agenda but devoid of factual accuracy.” His letter listed three statements based on the editorial in DeGette’s letter that he said were inaccurate.

Citing a statement that fracing “has been implicated in a growing number of water pollution cases across the country” and that “the safety of the nation’s water supply should not have to rely on luck or the public relations talents of the oil and gas industry,” Solich said that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and other states’ regulators have issued statements about the lack of any drinking water contamination cases connected with the technology.

60-year safety record
“The 60-year safety record of fracing has nothing to do with our public relations, but rather with our engineering talents. That record continues to this day,” Solich maintained. “The incidents being blamed on fracking by environmental groups and a media mainly uninterested in trying to understand complex regulatory issues have not been attributed to fracing.”

Solich said DeGette also erred in stating that the bill would bring fracing enforcement authority back to the US Environmental Protection Agency (which has never had it) and force producers and well service companies to disclose chemicals used in fracing fluids (which Colorado and five other states already require).

“Rather than impose the EPA and federal regulation over states’ rights on the issue, Congress could step back and support efforts by the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission and the Groundwater Protection Council, both bodies of state regulators, to encourage effective state regulation of fracking and natural gas and oil development,” Solich suggested.

Finally, said Solich, DeGette disregards existing oil and gas industry regulations that are extensive and costly when she asks why producers and service companies should fear additional federal regulation if fracing is as safe as they say. IPAMS estimates that federally regulating fracing under the SDWA’s underground injection program would add about $100,000 to the cost of drilling each well, he noted.

“We continue to be confused about the inaccurate information from your office on fracing, even though we and many other members of our industry have tried to explain the process,” Solich told DeGette. “We feel that the rhetoric coming from groups with a clear agenda to stop responsible natural gas and oil development is affecting the legislation.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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