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House votes to block Obama’s ‘fracking’ rules

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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The House voted to block the Obama administration from from regulating hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on federal lands Wednesday night over opposition from the White House and Democratic lawmakers.

The bill passed in a 235-187 vote and garnered support from twelve Democrats, while only two Republicans voted against it. The bill was part of three energy-related bills to speed through the House this week intended facilitate oil and gas development and create jobs.

The bipartisan bill prevents the Interior Department from implementing new regulations on fracking, which is already regulated by state agencies. The legislation prevents the department from regulating fracking in states and on tribal lands where regulations are already in place. It also tasks the Environmental Protection Agency with studying fracking.

“This bipartisan legislation ensures that duplicative federal hydraulic fracturing regulations do not stand in the way of increased American energy production,” said Washington Republican Rep. Doc Hastings. “States have successfully, efficiently, and safely been regulating this process for the past 60 years and imposing a ‘one-size-fits-all’ federal regulatory structure, as the Obama Administration is attempting to do, is both unnecessary and simply will not work.”

However, most Democratic lawmakers have opposed the bill and the White House has threatened to veto it — warning that lack of proper oversight could endanger people’s drinking water.

“Tell the people living next to the huge open pits of wastewater that the real danger is the federal government wants to make sure the states have minimum standards,” said Rep. Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat.

“[Interior Department] has been working in close consultation with States and Tribes on strengthening oversight of hydraulic fracturing operations and establishing a uniform baseline level of appropriate environmental protection,” the White House said.

Fracking involves injecting water, sand and some chemicals into underground shale formations to extract oil and natural gas. Environmentalists argue that the drilling technique poses a threat to drinking water supplies and activists have been pushing for bans or moratoriums on fracking throughout the country.

However, the EPA has not been able to link fracking to groundwater contamination and the Energy Department found that the practice is safe when done properly.

“Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling are safe, proven technologies that have allowed the U.S. to outpace Russia as the world’s number one producer of oil and natural gas,” said Erik Milito, director of upstream and industry operations at the American Petroleum Institute.

The House fracking bill passed shortly after the chamber passed a Republican bill that would open up more federal lands to energy development and speed up permitting times for oil and gas leases.

However, that bill was also threatened with a veto from the White House and faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

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