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Hydraulic Fracturing Amendment Withdrawn, but Spurs Heated Debate

-Dave Michaels/Reporter

Rep. Diana DeGette's amendment requiring disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluids was withdrawn at today's meeting of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. DeGette may not have had the votes to pass it. More important, it was clear that the controversial measure would have doomed a compromise between Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and committee Republicans on the underlying legislation, the Assistance, Quality and Affordability Act of 2010.
DeGette says her amendment wouldn't harm the industry but would give people a better idea what fluids are being pumped underground to mine natural gas. (She said only three states require reporting of fracturing fluids to environmental regulators.) She mentioned that some big companies have said they support disclosure, including Exxon Mobil and Chesapeake. Yet others have lobbied vociferously against her amendment, she said. "Either the fracing fluid is benign and contains no harmful components," she said, "or it's really dangerous and they don't actually want to have the components disclosed -- in which case we should add it to the Safe Drinking Water Act to protect the health and safety of our constituents."
Even after Waxman asked her to withdraw the amendment, the topic sparked a heated debate. The Texans, in particular, were outspoken against her proposal, saying it would open the door to unnecessary federal control of natural gas development:
Rep. Joe Barton , R-Arlington: "My concern is if it were to be passed, it would give the EPA for the first time a regulatory foothold. And I do not think that is good public policy for the United States."
Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston: "We have now 100 years of natural gas available in our country -- clean burning natural gas that will help us with carbon control. If we eliminate hydraulic fracing, we will lose that 100 years [of gas]. We have a national security issue here."