Ken Salazar defends looming hydraulic fracturing requirements

The Obama administration is carefully writing new rules to govern hydraulic fracturing on public lands to make sure they don’t impede the development of America’s promising natural gas supplies, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar insisted today.

“We are developing a rule and taking input from a lot of different places . . . to ensure that it does not push back on the bright future for natural gas,” Salazar told the House Natural Resources Committee.

Salazar’s comments came amid fresh criticism from Republican lawmakers about the looming regulations that are expected to force disclosure of chemicals used to stimulate gas and oil production, set new standards for the design of wells and create new requirements governing water use at the sites.

The proposed rule, expected to be unveiled early next year, would apply to wells on roughly 700 million acres of public lands.

Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey said the proposal is spurred by the surge in wells that are being hydraulically fractured — a technique that involves blasting mixtures of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to break up dense shale rock formations and unlock trapped oil and natural gas.

The BLM recently estimated that roughly nine out of every 10 wells drilled on public lands managed by the agency are stimulated by hydraulic fracturing.

Salazar said the Interior Department was still writing the rule, but emphasized its focus on well integrity and disclosure.

“The issues for me are clear,” he told reporters. “It’s one, disclosure, two, well bore integrity and three, what happens with respect to flowback water.”

Ultimately, Salazar added, “we want to land in a place that will be supportive of natural gas development in the United States.”

Republican lawmakers were skeptical of Interior’s plans. Noting the promise of natural gas, committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., said it was “concerning that potential onerous regulations could drastically curtail that cooperation and impede its development and usage.”

But Salazar insisted that the coming regulations could actually give natural gas a leg up, by boosting public confidence in the drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques that are key to unlocking it.

Fears that methane can escape from poorly cemented and designed wells and contaminate groundwater supplies have prompted some states and local policymakers to propose bans on hydraulic fracturing.

The Interior regulations could ensure “we don’t end up in a circumstance where we end up seeing the kind of moratoria . . . now being proposed around the country,” Salazar said.

“The most important thing we could do in a bipartisan way is to move forward in a way that supports the natural gas industry,” Salazar added. “In my view, some of these issues will have to be addressed in order to move forward with a robust natural gas (program).”

That didn’t assuage Republican critics.

Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., cited industry stats that 2 million wells have been hydraulically fractured, roughly half of them in the United States, over the past six decades.

Rep. John Fleming, R-La., questioned whether there had been any “deaths or serious injuries to humans as a result of … the 60 years of hydrofracking that’s been performed.”

Abbey said he was not aware of any water contamination incident involving hydraulic fracturing on public lands.

“It’s very easy to understand why no one has had serious harm as a result of it,” Fleming said. “It is not harming people.”

“Certainly I would say that the Solyndra affair has harmed more people than hydrofracking has in 60 years,” Fleming added — invoking the dispute over federal loan guarantees to the failed solar company.

In one heated exchange, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, pressed Salazar whether there had been any water contamination from hydraulically fractured wells.

“Are you aware of any scientific studies?” Gohmert asked.

When Salazar didn’t immediately give a direct answer — and instead initially reiterated that the administration “supports the development of natural gas,” Gohmert repeatedly pushed for a yes or no response.

“You have no scientific studies that show (contamination),” Gohmert said.

Salazar shot back: “The ear banging that you’re engaging in is not helpful.”

Salazar later said “there are examples . . . around the country” of water supplies that have been contaminated by methane from poorly designed wells. But, he acknowledged that is separate from water supplies tainted by hydraulic fracturing chemicals.

“With respect to hydraulic (fracturing), because it occurs so far underground, we don’t know any examples of (contamination) on public lands,” Salazar said. “But it demonstrates the importance of ensuring we have wellbore integrity up and down the entire wellbore.”

24 Comments

  1. Joe

    salazar is a walking contradiction.

    #1
  2. Pete

    DOE panel finds need for more oversight of fracking–in spite of being staffed by many with industry ties.

    Fracking fluids found in contaminated drinking water wells in Wyoming.

    Why do Republicans hate clean water? Why do they care more about their contributors than their actual human constituents? (WY is overwhelmingly GOP, yet their party willfully tosses them under the bus).

    #2
  3. JimH

    Who do they think they’re kidding? They want to shut down traditional forms of energy to support “green” energy. They are living on a ship of fools.

    #3
  4. meetwoodflac

    Let the gov’t try to find its own gas on its own land and get back to me on how that works out. The fact that Salazar comes from an oil producing state and is completely clueless about the industry is downright hilarious.

    #4
  5. NoWhining

    …rules to delay a la Keystone Pipeline. Impacts no where near the toxins spewed by the enviro-terrorists. Haven’t we had enough of this clown administration?
    Stopped in 2010. 2012 time to end this bad experiment in government.

    #5
  6. Mark from Louisiana

    There is an idiot born every day, seems like obama has hired all of them.

    #6
  7. HaHA

    HELLO

    Fracing is not the same as well bore integrity. Historically, there has been PLENTY of pollution from poor cementing and integrity (BP Macondo, anyone?)

    Give it a rest…

    #7
  8. Calico

    Most of the land in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Louisiana and Texas is privately owned. Most of the new Shale plays are in these states. If the Feds don’t want the royalties on public lands (hello – Federal revenue,) so be it. There are thousands of wells to be drilled in Texas and North Dakota.

    #8
  9. txloanguy

    Obama = gas and oil enemy. This is another example.

    #9
  10. HaHA

    “If the feds don’t want the royalties on public lands”
    Who said that?
    Y’all live in fantasy land.
    On the contrary, his point was that if you disclose what you are putting into the ground, and ensure well integrity, then you will have much more of the public support you need to drill wells and make money for yourself and the public.
    I don’t see what is so “Crazy” and “commy” and “anti-oil/gas” about that statement.
    It’s not political; it is the president and cabinet members looking out for the public and private sector interest by encouraging responsible development.

    #10
  11. pdh42

    One more Nobama minion that is doing his best to shut this country’s energy sector…. They are hell bent on driving the price of our energy through the roof….

    #11
  12. Art Vandeley

    Ken Salazer, the point man in the Obama Administration’s attempt at keeping the United States dependent on foreign oil, weakening our national security, pleasing the radical green crowd and economy. Ken better get that resume updated because you only have about 1-1/2 more years of employment in Washington. Hurry up 2012!!!!!

    #12
  13. steve

    here we go again big kids! moratoriums? regulation for no reason, except to charge more funds on rule, for less out-put? this also means jobs, industry, transportation and the ultimate prices paid as end result of curbing/taxing energy.
    what did you spend filling up your car today? what did you pay at the store for groceries today? yup, thats what green taxes will do for you. if you have a job, how far will a tank of green get you, fired, you are a no show.
    the term ” obama administration “, is your paid taxes at work, against you. noticed?
    BP was a hit to the gulf, why? don’t know. it was not all that, notice at the end? no real damage to anything on land, no fishing for awhile? a few traces onshore. the leak was allowed to run for awhile.
    as result it took the heavy guys to finish work overseas, before getting to the gulf. one guy told me” if it was’nt for these guys paying out the nose for this little stuff, we would be doing real work”, even asked salazar what he was doing here? “just keeping an eye on things”.
    our gulf sands still have residue from mexicos blowout way back when, 9 mos, full throttle, no one griped, except kids, getting oil balls off their feet! BP did’nt have that complaint.
    many deep water rigs are gone, and support jobs thru contractors, sure you hear this, an that, no actual contracts for work. just want to sell blocks, for no reason.
    outside of administration reach, and regulation, china, russia, cuba as a sub-contractor, and middle-east are putting in huge, ultra deep stuff in the middle gulf. OOPS! forgot venezuela, and we will call this proper what? you’all give the term for these actions. don’t forget! obama warned them, he won’t apply american resource to their spills, what?
    oil an gas companies do their own thing, guess he just wanted folk to smile, while they laugh at us!
    in the morning, looking at your gas gauge, driving to work, worried about food prices, what you will do for dinner, thanksgiving an christmas, an the folk you help, cuz they lost their jobs! you may feel good about hope an change, maybe not.
    also, floating around various parts of heavy industry, seen guys an gals hurt, safety first in all aspects! been injured myself, bad, why? this is what it takes to take care of the family, pay bills, in the manner a family should be treated with, no worries and american spirit of industry. remember all! america made industry, fed the world, and now what? our tax dollars are shutting down the american way.
    hey all! thats just me, american, for america! thanx for reading. don’t be mad for my thoughts, you big kids know who to be mad at, not me.
    later!

    #13
  14. bz

    Rules and regulations promulgated by executive agencies without Congressional approval are patently unconstitutional. We must take our country back from these fascists running it.

    #14
  15. Bob

    Just another of Obamas idiots. This process is as old as Moses and now he is worried. This is just another attempt to choke the development of hydrocarbon fuels. Bring on the Don Quijotes and the battery and sun power idiots.

    #15
  16. Dollar

    What can not be accomplished through legislation, will be attained through regulation.

    Regulation = power and total control in the hands of too few people. It has the capability of being abused by over reaction and politics.

    #16
  17. HaHA

    Exhibit A:
    Why our country is going down the drain…

    Thanks for being so logical and reasonable.

    Your grandchildren will thank you.

    #17
  18. HaHA

    all of this “either-for-us-or-against-us” war against people who don’t agree with you is incredibly destructive for the national dialogue, especially for people who are more interested in facts than crazy rants.

    decibel level is not a substitute for reason or logic, nor is name calling. it only make it looks like you don’t know what you are talking about. I hope you will take the time for some self reflection after checking out the links below (or don’t… I don’t actually expect you to have any capacity for critical thought judging by your derogatory comments)

    Teach your children well…

    http://www.cracked.com/article_19468_5-logical-fallacies-that-make-you-wrong-more-than-you-think.html

    A lie requires two things: someone to create it, and someone to believe in it

    http://www.ted.com/talks/pamela_meyer_how_to_spot_a_liar.html

    #18
  19. HaHA

    Or howabout you actually take the time to learn about finance and new technologies?
    http://thebreakthrough.org/blog/2011/11/what_secretary_chu_should_but.shtml

    #19
  20. HaHA

    Dollar, what about where the market fails?
    What is the role of government?

    If the consumer has no choice due to a very vertically integrated industry, and increasingly horizontally integrated industry, who protects the public from negligence of those companies that can afford not to care for public risk?

    I read somewhere that CHK produced close to half of the shale gas in this country a year ago… speaking of power and total control.

    How many majors were there? How many super majors?

    Take the oil spill for example… BPs spill (in the eyes of public), so consumer boycotts BP gas stations… too bad those are independently owned franchise stations that don’t even necessarily use BP E&P supplied oil. Boycotting a BP gas station does next to nothing to affect the E&P side.

    Economic theory is based on certain assumptions; sometimes those assumptions are flawed.

    Look up the word “externality”… economics is not a faith based religion… folks just like to treat it like one.

    #20
  21. HaHA

    ?”Whenever there are “externalities”—where the actions of an individual have impacts on others for which they do not pay or for which they are not compensated—markets will not work well. But recent research has shown that these externalities are pervasive, whenever there is imperfect information or imperfect risk markets—that is always. The real debate today is about finding the right balance between the market and government. Both are needed. They can each complement each other. This balance will differ from time to time and place to place.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_E._Stiglitz

    #21
  22. HaHA

    BoB “This process is as old as Moses”
    And that’s why it has just changed the entire US market in the past few years… because the process has been around SOOO long
    and careless oil and gas operators have been polluting clean water for just about as long
    Except now the industry can’t sweep it under the rug any longer

    It used to be common practice to just dig a hole, put your waste in it, and bury it… as if a huge pool of oil waste from deep underground is something like animal feces.
    People also used to think the planet was flat and that coal smoke was good for your lungs.
    But luckily there are more generations after you to help the industry clean up its act instead of just turning a blind eye

    #22
  23. HaHA

    “Just one more derogatory, baseless comment directed at discrediting an individual’s views as opposed to offering a meaningful and substantiated response”

    “Hey look! The sky is green!”
    “What’s that? The facts indicate otherwise”
    “Well, I know that I am right because you are an idiot… and I have my facts. The sky is green because Fox News and my friends told me so”
    “Well what about the facts?”
    “I don’t believe in facts… they can be used to prove anything.”

    OK, JoeJimHmeetwoodflacNoWhiningMarkLouisianaCalicotxloanguypdh42Art VandeleysteveBob

    I heard Obama was really an undocumented alien from China, here to undermine the US economy for Al Queda, in cooperation with North Korea and Russia…

    It would almost be comical if you you were a bunch of characters on a comic strip… except that you aren’t.

    #23
  24. pacificoil

    HaHA, did you really just reference a “Cracked” article and Wiki page? Great sources to hunt for your facts.

    #24