Report: EPA having trouble keeping up with the hydraulic-fracturing boom

posted at 6:41 pm on October 9, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

Whatever would we do without the august, dispassionate wisdom of the Environmental Protection Agency keeping a watchful paternalistic eye on the many activities of us ignoble profit-seekers? …Prosper, probably. As it is, the EPA never tires of finding new excuses for their expanded involvement in an ever-wider range of private-sector endeavors, nor of further limiting private-property owners’ available uses of their own land (which is distinctly odd, because nobody but nobody has a more vested interest in preserving the quality of a resource than the person who owns said resource — but, not to worry, President Obama has assured us that green energy is “not a socialist plot,” so, there’s that).

A newly-released report from the Government Accountability Office attests to the ‘challenges’ the EPA is facing in regulating the currently-going-gangbusters-but-retarded-by-red-tape oil-and-gas industry enabled by the spreading use of hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. “fracking” (I know, I know — news flash — private-sector business tends to grow and move faster than federal bureaucracy, go figure). From The Hill:

“Officials at EPA reported that conducting inspection and enforcement activities for oil and gas development from unconventional reservoirs is challenging due to limited information, as well as the dispersed nature of the industry and the rapid pace of development,” the report states.

Problems facing EPA include a frequent lack of “baseline” water-quality data that makes it hard to gauge alleged groundwater contamination, and overall difficulty tracking the development boom, the report states.

For instance, the report notes that it’s tough to inspect the large number of new well sites in Ohio, where the Utica shale play is attracting development, because EPA “generally does not receive information about new wells or their location.”

The EPA doesn’t typically take too kindly to limits on their authority. I can almost see them rubbing their hands together in anticipation of finding new-and-exciting reasons to write more top-down regulations now, except that all of these alleged cases of dangerous “groundwater contamination” the environmentalists like to use as justification for said regulations, have miraculously failed to materialize into anything definitive, despite fracking being a decades-old technological practice.

The EPA has steadily increased their workforce and budget over time, and like any good never-miss-an-opportunity-to-metastasize federal body, would always like to find a reason to grow their green crusade — but how much will ever be enough? And why is lumbering, top-down federal oversight ever a good idea when you want to get anything done?

This type of report is precisely why Mitt Romney’s plan for more state sovereignty in oil-and-gas drilling determination is such a good idea — the EPA will always and necessarily be operating via an ideological tear, but when states compete and people can see the demonstrably successful-or-failing results of particular policies and regulations and American businesses won’t have to deal with quite so much bureaucratic red tape, everybody wins.


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