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EPA trying to ‘cheat’ on fracking rules, says GOP

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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Texas Republican Rep. Bill Flores claims the Environmental Protection Agency is skirting scientific review in its analysis of hydraulic fracturing.

“With respect to hydraulic fracturing, the EPA has been trying to cheat on that process,” Flores said in a teleconference. The House recently passed a bill introduced by Flores that would block the Obama administration form regulating hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in states that already have regulations on the books.

Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith tacked on an amendment to the bill that would ensure the EPA’s ongoing fracking study is based on “realistic risk assessments” instead of hypothetical scenarios.

“In its zeal to regulate, the EPA too often has rushed to link water contamination to hydraulic fracturing,” Smith said in a statement. The “legislation holds the EPA accountable by requiring the agency to provide context for any identified risks.”

“It lets the EPA know that, ‘hey, you have people in Congress who are tuned in to what you’re trying to do,’” Flores added.

The EPA began a multi-year study in 2011 on the impacts of fracking on drinking water supplies. However, Republicans have criticized the agency for being too quick to link fracking to water contamination, and have argued that even the agency’s own science advisers have criticized them for skirting the regulatory process.

The agency has failed on three separate occasions to link fracking to groundwater contamination, and the Energy Department has said that the drilling technique is safe when done properly.

President Obama has touted the benefits of increased natural gas drilling, pointing to how it has lowered energy costs and cut carbon dioxide emissions which cause global warming. However, the president’s environmentalist base has ramped up campaigns to halt fracking operation across the country, citing air and water quality concerns.

Despite the president’s ostensible zeal for drilling, the White House opposed the fracking bill, along with two other energy development bills passed by the House this week.

“These irresponsible measures are part of a continuing campaign by House Republicans to systematically dismantle long-time, sensible safety protections the American people depend on, and to deliberately let the oil and gas industry write its own rules. Even those who support more oil and gas drilling should be appalled,” said David Goldston, director of government affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“With an appropriate White House veto promised for each bill, they should now die in the U.S. Senate,” Goldston added.

However, House Republicans and Democrats that supported the fracking bill argue that even with near certain defeat in the Senate and White House, the bill sends a clear message to the Obama administration: don’t regulate fracking.

“It does send a signal to [Interior Department] that the House on a bipartisan basis does not approve of the direction they want to go,” Flores said. “Why is the federal government trying to find solutions to problems that don’t exist.”

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