WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, Thursday sent a letter to Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) again inquiring into the OIG's duplicative report on the effectiveness of states’ hydraulic fracturing regulations. The Groundwater Protection Council (GWPC) released a comprehensive report on Wednesday highlighting the cutting edge oil and natural gas regulatory structures of states, including those concerning hydraulic fracturing. The review from the OIG’s office oversteps its responsibility to provide oversight of EPA; OIG is not allowed to conduct regulatory investigations, but that is what this review appears to be.
Inhofe wrote, “It is worth revisiting that the principle mission of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is to ‘prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse… of the programs and operations of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).' In your response to the May 8, 2014, letter you agreed with our understanding of the Department of Justice’s principle that 'OIGs have an oversight [obligation] rather than a direct role in investigations conducted pursuant to regulatory statues.’ But the report your office is developing falls squarely in the category of regulatory investigations, which is wholly inappropriate, particularly as it relates to its review of state based regulations."
“In recent years, hydraulic fracturing has been among the most extensively studied and regulated components of the energy industry, and the EPA is presently working on the multi-year, multi-million dollar study over the process and the potential risks it may pose to water resources. That your office has initiated this investigation at its own behest, without any external request, brings into question the OIG’s judgement and ability to effectively manage its resources, which you have personally admitted are stretched thin."
On Wednesday the The Groundwater Protection Council (GWPC), a nonprofit organization comprised of state regulatory agencies focused on the protection of water resources, released a report entitled 'State Oil and Gas Regulations Designed to Protect Water Resources.’ The review concludes that “In step with dramatic industry growth over the past five years, states have substantially improved groundwater protection laws and regulations governing oil and natural gas production.”
The letter continues "And there is no cause for concern that this will not continue because state regulatory practices cater to the 'unique and local circumstances and characteristics' and 'over time, they evolve to address the public concerns about the safety and environmental impact of oil and gas development, as well as rapidly changing technologies, new field discoveries, revised operational practices, internal and external reviews, and regulatory experience.’”
“The conclusions of GWPC’s report highlight that there is no need for OIG to step out of its core area of responsibility to conduct a study on the efficacy of state based hydraulic fracturing regulations. On a consistent basis, states have successfully demonstrated their ability to regulate; there has been no instances of it causing groundwater contamination.”
To read the full text of the letter click here.