Wed May 2, 2012

Fracking the Focus of Congressional Hearing at Colorado Capitol [Updated]

Denver was the location for a U.S. Congressional field hearing on hydraulic fracturing on Wednesday. Panelists and members of Congress debated whether the fracking process is safe, and if federal regulations would be overreaching.

Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) hosted the hearing. As chair of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals, he thinks proposed fracking regulations on federal lands would hinder energy jobs and be a setback for states like Colorado.

“Recently announced plans to implement a one size fits all approach from Washington threaten to impede this progress,” says Lamborn.

The new federal rules would require oil and gas companies to disclose the chemicals they use to frack a well – many of which are proprietary to individual companies. Republicans lined up against the plan that Democrats support.

While the state of Colorado already requires such disclosure - state representative Republican Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) says a federal requirement would go too far.

“I can assure you that a one size fits all regulatory structure at the fed level will be devastating to the energy industry in Colorado. The difference in regulatory needs for Texas and places east of Tennessee are as different as the diverse production needs in Colorado.”   

But Congressman Rush Holt (D-New Jersey), who is also on the committee, says federal oversight is necessary.

"Do Coloradans react differently to contaminated water? Does the physiology of a Coloradan's react differently to carcinogens?”

A longtime critic of fracking, Congresswoman Dianna DeGette (D-Denver) says she supports energy independence, but also called for increased scrutiny.

“It would truly be a devil’s bargain if the price we paid was contamination of our water and air. There’s a role for different levels of government.”

The debate is a familiar one. Colorado has already been grappling with the balance of power between state and local regulations. Several bills during the current legislative session have either tried to give the state or local governments more authority to regulate drilling.

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