The Interior Department was just so doggone proud of themselves for updating the federal government’s 30-year old hydraulic fracturing regulations that were announced recently to the glee of fractivists everywhere.
But here’s a point that was lost in the media coverage – states had already beaten feds to the punch by instituting the safety rules years ago.
So writes Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs at Western Energy Alliance, in The Hill, a Washington, D.C.-based publication.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell characterized Interior’s action as taking the lead and giving the states an example to follow.
An example? Only in the logic of leading from behind. States have not been waiting for the federal government. They have long acted to strengthen their regulations and ensure that fracking is done safely while protecting the environment.
Colorado has completed multiple rounds of rulemaking over more than a decade, with increasing intensity in recent years. Wyoming is in a race to the top with Colorado in claiming the mantle of the state with the most stringent regulations. North Dakota, Texas, and in fact all western states with sizeable oil and natural gas development had updated their rules well before the federal government jumped in. In fact, 99.97 percent of the permits to drill approved last year by the Interior Department are in states with recently updated fracking regulations, with just one well in a state currently updating its rules.
So why are states suing the feds for doubling down with overlapping and unnecessarily restrictive rules if there was no regulation gap to begin with? Sgamma has a pretty good explanation:
The Interior Department cannot point to a single incident on public lands to justify the new red tape nor risk that isn’t already handled by the states.
Just as the federal government has been way behind state regulators, its inefficiencies have already discouraged development on federal lands. It takes years longer for federal project approval than on identical adjacent private and state lands. It is well-documented production lags on federal lands even as it is booming across the country.
The Interior Department has issued vague promises that it will allow certain state rules to prevail, but there is no assurance. Viewing state regulation through the lens of copying federal requirements rather than achieving environmental goals is not true partnership.
Well said. It’s a solid opinion piece, read the rest here.