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Let states keep control of fracking

Federal rules not needed to ensure safety

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST
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Doug Whitley

We are writing [to U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy] as state chambers of commerce where high-volume, hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling occurs within our individual state borders.

Illinois recently became a new member of the club of states that have promulgated rules and/or passed legislative regulations ensuring hydraulic fracturing is employed safely, transparently, and with a continued commitment to environmental protection.

We want to reinforce a request that the U.S. EPA continue to allow state regulators to take the lead on hydraulic fracturing-related regulations.

We’ve all seen the benefits of the increase in oil and natural gas supply because of the growth of this unconventional development. It’s clear that state regulatory efforts have enabled the country to enjoy the tremendous economic growth and job creation generated from this relatively new energy production, while also ensuring environmental protection isn’t compromised.

Common-sense, effective regulations are necessary to govern the use of hydraulic fracturing, embracing this responsibility through regulation particular to the unique characteristics of our respective states. This is why we oppose any new federal intervention that would disrupt the regulatory frameworks of the states.

Our people have benefitted from the oil and gas boom associated with shale – all under the regulatory eyes of their state’s DNR or EPA. No one knows the local geology, land, and water better than state agency staff; different states have different areas of focus when it comes to regulating hydraulic fracturing. The current structure allows states the wherewithal to ban hydraulic fracturing within their borders if that’s the perceived collective wish of the electorate.

We’re concerned that federal oversight will be too difficult to manage with such a dichotomy of environmental issues in states as diverse as Colorado, Illinois, Texas, West Virginia and others.

We recommend the U.S. Bureau of Land Management adhere to the same restraint when it comes to managing oil and gas extraction in federal lands. Different areas have different needs, and even within a state, it makes sense to have one set of rules and regulations that protect the environment. This is easier and more effective for the state’s regulators and creates more certainty for the industry.

Finally, as we look forward to new technological advances in the hydraulic fracturing industry, individual states are more than nimble enough to react and amend the regulatory models so they provide the appropriate protections for the land and its citizens.

Our states have enjoyed or are looking to reap the benefits of the relatively new energy development that is changing the face of our country’s energy portfolio. We have a great new resource of energy, being done in a regulated environment that protects our air, land, and water quality, creating millions of quality jobs for Americans.

We hope you’ll agree that it’s unnecessary for the U.S. EPA or Bureau of Land Management to generate additional rules or otherwise usurp local expertise, and that prudence would dictate continuing the successful tradition of having the states protect their assets in the manner that works best for them.

Note to readers: Doug Whitley is president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. The letter is co-signed by 16 state chambers of commerce.

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