Congressional hearing on hydraulic fracturing explores federal oversight options

Nov. 17, 2011
At a Nov. 16 hearing, PA DEP Secretary Mike Krancer told members of Congress that states where hydraulic fracturing is taking place are properly overseeing the activity and do not need federal interference...

HARRISBURG, PA, Nov. 17, 2011 -- At a Nov. 16 hearing, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Krancer told members of Congress that states where hydraulic fracturing is taking place are properly overseeing the activity and do not need federal interference.

Krancer testified before the U.S. House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, of which Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Jason Altmire (D-PA) are members. The group is part of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and called the hearing to focus on states' wastewater handling and regulations.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process used in oil and natural gas drilling that injects a mixture of sand and water into the cracks of rock formations to create fissures that allow more oil and gas to be extracted.

"It is total fiction that sewage treatment plants are discharging these 'terrible' waste products into the waterways," Krancer said. "The question here is whether the states are capable, and the states are doing a good job."

Because each state has unique geography, topography and geology, a federal "one-size-fits-all" approach to regulation would be "unwise, duplicative and unnecessary," Krancer testified.

"We have to be guided by facts and science -- not fiction and emotion," Krancer said, adding that the latter guide much of the criticism of natural gas drilling.

He reminded the committee that there have been more than 1.2 million wells fracked across the nation over the last 60 years, and that neither the Environmental Protection Agency nor state regulatory agencies have seen any documented cases of fracking causing contamination of drinking water supplies.

Krancer credited Pennsylvania's aggressive, robust regulatory program and oversight of natural gas activities, including the administration's April 2011 call to drillers to stop delivering shale gas production wastewater to exempted treatment facilities, with protecting Pennsylvania's surface and groundwater.

"The shale gas here is abundant, available, domestic, clean and cheap, and is already transforming our economy by creating tens of thousands of jobs and lower energy prices," Krancer said. "And that is just the beginning."

For more information and to view Krancer's testimony, visit


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