Natural Gas is So Great. Now Let’s Regulate It Into Submission

By July 28, 2010Energy, Regulations

Talk about your mixed messages. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) unveiled an “energy” bill on Tuesday that would spend $3.8 billion on rebates to retrofit trucks and other fleet vehicles to natural gas. But at the same time, the bill embraces the environmentalists’ favorite line of attack against hydrofracturing, the technology used to develop the nation’s abundant deposits of shale gas.

From CQ Politics, “Reid’s Energy Bill Revives Fight Over Hydraulic Fracturing“:

Senate Republicans and small oil and gas producers are crying foul over a provision in Majority Leader Harry Reid ’s energy bill that would impose new chemical disclosure requirements on a controversial onshore drilling technique.

The language, included in Reid’s energy bill released Tuesday night, would force companies to publicly disclose the chemicals involved in hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from shale deposits. The widely used process, also called “fracking,” involves injecting water, sand and chemicals deep underground to force the gas to the surface.

Environmental and anti-energy groups try to alarm the public over hydrofracturing by putting the words “chemicals” and “water” together in the same sentence, not really caring that the pressurized liquids used to fracture the gas-bearing strata are injected thousands of feet below the drinking water. As long as you can scare people.

You can see the effect in scores of news reports like this one from Pittsburgh radio station KDKA, in which a local resident complains his drinking water is tainted, but the state environmental agency finds no evidence.

“That’s exactly right,” Helen Humphreys, a spokesperson for the DEP, said. “The test results came back with results that are consistent with water in southwestern Pennsylvania.”

The DEP says it also has been unable to verify any contamination cases in the state caused by drilling, even though much of the public believes otherwise.

The Reid provisions resemble a bill sponsored by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA), S. 1215, the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act.

OK, but why not disclose the chemicals if there’s no risk to the public? Lee Fuller, head of the industry alliance, Energy In Depth, explained:

The entire universe of additives used in the fracturing process is known to regulators and the public, as is mandated as such under federal rules enforced by OSHA. The problem with this provision is that it has the potential to create a series of legal responsibilities that operators, and even service companies, might not be able to fulfill, especially under a scenario where folks are asked to post information that doesn’t even belong to them. The amazing thing is this provision appears to be moving ahead even as EPA and Congress continue to study the issue. It raises the question of why they’re doing the study in the first place if policymakers don’t appear to be all that interested in learning anything from it.

Even more astounding is that anyone in Congress would attempt to shut down a proven engine of job creation at a time of high unemployment. According to a recent Penn State study, development of the Marcellus Shale formation has produced nearly 44,000 jobs in Pennsylvania, with the potential to create another 212,000 over the next decade. President Obama recently traveled to Youngstown, Ohio, to celebrate a business expansion only made possible by the Marcellus development.

So here we have a major piece of legislation that spends $3.8 billion to promote transportation’s switch to natural gas. Yet at the same time the bill makes it more difficult and expensive to produce the gas that’s needed to accomplish the switch. Mixed message or mixed agenda, it just makes no sense.

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