A Rule in Search of a Problem

by Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs on April 30, 2015 - 11:21am

Kathleen Sgamma

Testifying in the Senate this week on the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) final fracking rule, I stressed that the agency has finalized a costly rule with no justification in the form of real environmental benefit.

BLM’s rule will regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal and tribal lands nationwide, yet the agency can show no incident that necessitates the rule, nor any risk that the rule actually reduces. The best the agency can do to justify the rule is to cite vague notions of public concern.

Appearing before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining at a hearing called by Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY). I participated on a panel with BLM Director Neil Kornze, Mark Watson from Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and Bruce Baizel of Earthworks.

The Alliance is a unique position to have spoken on behalf of industry at this hearing because we represent independent producers across the West, the majority of which are small businesses with an average of fifteen employees. Our members provide nearly a quarter of America’s oil and natural gas production while disturbing only 0.07% of public lands.

It is clear from this hearing that BLM’s fracking rule is simply more regulatory overreach. Given the chance to represent itself before Congress, the agency did a poor job of providing a compelling need for additional layers of regulations. Theirs is a rule in search of a problem.

In the hearing, BLM claimed there’s a process for states and tribes to request variances from provisions if they have equal or more protective regulations in place. BLM has promised to work with states to develop Memoranda of Understanding (MOU), but those do not substitute for a real regulatory mechanism that defers to states. It was apparent from testimony from Commissioner Watson that the Alliance and Wyoming agree that there’s not a genuine mechanism for state and tribal variances, and there’s little incentive for states to pursue MOUs.

For more details, my full testimony is available online. A recap of the hearing webcast is available on the committee’s page

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