Oil and gas firms lobbying against federal oversight of frac’ing | PostIndependent.com

Oil and gas firms lobbying against federal oversight of frac’ing

John ColsonPost Independent staffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

As a federal agency begins to study the safety of a key technique for extracting oil and natural gas from deep underground, a group of U.S. Senators is working on legislation that could prevent federal oversight of the technique.The legislation in question is the latest draft of a climate and energy bill, being written by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Liebermann (I-Conn.)According to news reports, three oil and gas firms are lobbying to have language inserted into the bill that would reinforce states’ authority over the technique known as frac’ing. The firms, according to the High Country News, are B.P., Conoco-Phillips and Shell Oil.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced it is embarking on a study of frac’ing, formally known as hydraulic fracturing, to determine whether the procedure poses a threat to the nation’s supplies of drinking water.Frac’ing is the technique of injecting massive amounts of water and sand, laced with certain chemicals, into a well bore to loosen up deeply buried deposits of oil and gas and allow them to flow more easily to the surface. It reportedly is used in more than 90 percent of oil and gas exploration in the U.S., and has become a critical component in the exploitation of what are known as “tight sandstone” formations, such as those found in the Piceance Basin of western Colorado.A bill introduced last year in the House and the Senate would place oversight of frac’ing fluids under the EPA.But recently, according to a report in the New York Times online, and other news outlets, the three oil and gas companies have been lobbying for legislative language suggesting that any regulation of frac’ing should be left to the states.Critics of the industry have long claimed that the frac’ing fluids pose a hazard to underground aquifers, while the industry has maintained that the practice is safe and adequately regulated by state governments.Ted Rolfvondenbaumen, a spokesman for Shell Oil in Houston, Texas, said the company has a policy of not commenting on such issues, saying that all talks between Shell and the senators had been in “a closed-door session.”A spokesman for the Colorado oil and gas industry, however, expressed confidence that the lobbyists’ efforts would succeed.David Ludlam, director of the Western Slope office of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said, “Current state-level regulatory structures, confirmed by the EPA, Ground Water Protection Council, and Interstate Oil and Gas Commission, are the best processes for overseeing the nation’s oil and gas development. Whatever Congress winds up doing, the West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association is confident Congress will recognize the importance of having these issues regulated by the states, not the federal government.”jcolson@postindependent.com

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