New fracking legislation would give more control to states

north dakota flagNorth Dakota Senator John Hoeven recently announced that he will be introducing legislation soon that will give states much more power in determining how fracking is regulated. Hoeven claims that states, not the federal government, or better equipped to decide how energy resource development should be controlled.

“Hydraulic fracturing, depending on where you do it, is very different,” Hoeven said. “Therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach from the federal government doesn’t work.”

The legislation will be co-sponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources and has been visiting the North Dakota oil boom recently.

The proposed legislation, called the Empower States Act, would require a federal agency, such as the EPA, to consult with local and state governments before writing any new regulations relating to energy development.

Hoeven and Murkowski share a common bond as Senators of big energy producing states, with North Dakota recently passing Alaska as the second biggest producer in the country. Both states development is also controlled by federal regulations.

During her visit to Williston, Murkowski said federal regulatory practices are holding up North America’s energy independence. In Alaska, where more than 60 percent of land is federally controlled, permits can take years to be approved, Murkowski said.

“We have considerable resources but we have been denied access to that resource primarily through federal policies,” Murkowski said.

When North Dakota passed Alaska in March to be the second-largest producer of crude in the country, trailing only Texas, “it caused Alaskans to sit up and pay attention,” Murkowski said.

As demand for domestic energy resources continues to grow, this perception of the relevancy of the federal government is likely to increase as well. Hoeven’s point that fracking differs greatly from place to place is certainly valid. The more centralized development taking place in North Dakota is quite different than the small scale and distributed gas fracking that’s been happening, and creating much public opposition, in places like Pennsylvania and New York.

Regardless of recent studies on the potential risks of fracking, and the obvious impact of the boom itself, we should expect to see an increase in this “locals versus the feds” dynamic, which is perhaps best illustrated by the following quote:

“There’s nobody in this country who knows better than we do as North Dakotans how to keep our resources safe,” geologist Kathy Neset said during a recent presentation to state legislators.

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