Democrats in Congress moved last week to back up Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s desire to require drillers to disclose what chemicals they use to extract natural gas.
The fight over hydraulic fracturing fell into Salazar’s hands late last year after Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November. The GOP victory effectively ended Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette’s bid to regulate fracking fluids.
The Denver Democrat helped round up 45 others for a letter in support of Salazar last week.
Salazar hinted late last year that the Interior Department might order gas drillers to disclose the content of their fracking fluids.
Gas drillers use fracking fluids to open underground rock formations and allow natural gas to flow up the well. The content of the fluids is a trade secret, and critics of gas drilling say the chemicals might pose a health risk. The gas industry says the fluids are injected so deep into the ground that they could not possibly pollute the water table.
“Oil and gas companies continue to assure us that their drilling projects are safe,” DeGette said in a written statement. “But those same companies refuse to back up their assertions by disclosing the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process.”
The letter told Salazar the public has a right to know what chemicals are being pumped into the ground. Boulder Democrat Jared Polis and New York Democrat Maurice Hinchey also helped draft the letter.
The letter was a response to a Jan. 4 letter from 32 others – including Denver-area Republican Mike Coffman – that asked Salazar to put on hold any plans to regulate fracking fluids.
“The vast majority of scientific evidence shows hydraulic fracturing to be safe, less resource-intensive for the environment than traditional methods, and properly managed and regulated at the state level,” said the letter from the Congressional Natural Gas Caucus.
The letter was sent before Cortez Republican Scott Tipton joined Congress, but Tipton thinks states are doing a good job of keeping fracking safe, said his spokesman, Josh Green.
“Currently, fracking falls under state regulation. We don’t see any need for the federal government to get involved here,” Green said.
Salazar made his comments at a public forum on fracking that he called Nov. 30.
The Interior Department has not said what, if anything, it intends to do about fracking.