EARTHblog » Aaron Mintzes
June 7, 2012
Yesterday, I attended a hearing of the House Energy and Power subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee entitled “EPA Enforcement Priorities and Practices”. It really should have been called “The Crucifixion of Al Armendariz”. Except, Dr. Al wisely chose not to attend. This hearing has followed a basic narrative pushed by the House Majority best articulated by the subcommittee’s ranking member Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL). Instead of calling it the Environmental Protection Agency, we should rename it the Every Problem in America agency. That’s because the House Majority loves to hold hearings where they blame the lagging job market, gas prices, and over dependence on foreign energy on the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and so on. The argument presumably goes: but for those pesky environmental protections, we’d have full employment and free gasoline.
Al Armendariz was, until very recently, the head of EPA Region 6 that includes major energy producing states like Texas and Oklahoma. He’s not a politician- more like a scientist, college professor type. But Dr. Al ruffled some feathers on December 7, 2010, when Region 6 issued an emergency order against Range Resources amid reports of possible water contamination from Range’s fracking operations. In March of this year, EPA and Range settled the case agreeing to lift the emergency order and continue with a testing and monitoring program. But by this point, Range, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Texas Railroad Commission (TX RRC) were furious that the federal government had so impugned Texas sovereignty. Their message: Don’t mess with Texas.
May 7, 2012
On Friday afternoon, the United States Department of Interior (DOI) released their proposed rules to govern hydraulic fracturing on public lands. Many of us in the environmental community eagerly anticipated the release of these rules because they signal the second clear indication of how the Obama Administration would regulate fracking. The Environmental Protection Agency had earlier released rules related to air emissions from natural gas facilities. Although most fracking regulation occurs at the state level, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management has jurisdiction over an enormous acreage and therefore sets the standard for how the states might approach the issue.