Leave energy regulation to the states

Rep. Cory Gardner Congressman (R-CO)
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Much has been written about the dramatic growth in the supply of domestic oil and gas that has turned American-made energy into our nation’s latest success story. The low price of these domestic energy resources has translated into billions of dollars of savings for the American consumer — a “stimulus” provided by market forces rather than government. And according to a recent report from Citigroup, continued strength in domestic oil and gas exploration and production could generate 3.5 million new jobs over the next eight years while expanding GDP by as much as 3 percent. The unemployment rate would almost certainly be higher right now were it not for the job growth that has accompanied this domestic energy juggernaut.

This boom has been made possible by advances in directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Ninety percent of new oil and gas wells drilled today use these technologies, and even the nation’s highest-ranking Environmental Protection Agency official cannot find a good reason to oppose them. At a May 2011 congressional hearing, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson stated, “I’m not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.”

But Obama administration officials are not happy with this turn of events, as it poses a threat to their vision of an immediate transition to renewable energy at the expense of more reliable and affordable options. President Obama is resorting to his favorite instruments of fiat and regulation to throttle our primary energy resources — in this case, through new regulations for fracking on Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, and Tribal lands. These proposed federal rules are unnecessary and redundant, and would cost society $1.5 billion in lost economic activity.

Western states have long regulated fracking activities on both private and public land, and President Obama’s own EPA concedes the effectiveness of these state regulations. Another layer of regulation will be costly and introduce yet more uncertainty and delay. Simply put, these regulations will result in fewer wells being drilled on federal lands, reducing royalty and tax revenue for state, local, and federal jurisdictions — revenue that is used to fund education, infrastructure, and job-creation programs throughout the West.

Oil and natural gas production is the economic lifeblood of many Western states, ranking with agriculture and tourism. As citizens of the West, where the majority of the land is owned by the federal government, we are rightfully alarmed at the disadvantage our states will suffer from another layer of federal regulation that other energy-producing regions will not to have to suffer.

The West is the energy bread basket of the country, with major coal, oil, natural gas, wind, and solar resources. And we have been successfully utilizing and advancing each of these resources on our own. As Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper recently stated, “[Governors] can create regulations that are less onerous but more effective than blanket regulations that come out of Washington.” Rather than satisfying the agenda of environmental special interest groups, President Obama should let us go about our business.

Many observers believe that the recent developments in the domestic oil and gas industries amount to a “revolution.” As hard as it may be for him, President Obama needs to get out of the revolution’s way.

Rep. Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, serves on the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.