The Hill: America needs its shale energy and hydraulic fracturing provides it
By Reps. Bill Flores (R-Texas) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)
In just a few short years, the United States has become the world’s number one oil and natural gas producer, and is well on its way to no longer relying on energy from countries that are historically hostile to U.S. interests.
For the average family last year, this energy transformation meant $1,200 in the form of lower energy bills, at a time when hard working American families desperately need a break. The benefits of the shale energy revolution have already been tremendous. On top of lowering costs for fueling our cars, heating our homes and running our factories, it may have saved America from slipping into a depression. After all, natural gas producing shale is the single most dramatically expanding part of the U.S. economy supporting the highest number of new jobs.
Energy is not an end unto itself; it is a key economic input to a more prosperous future for all Americans. If not for the shale revolution, we would not be reaping the benefits of the rebirth of the manufacturing sector that both of our parties see as key to rebuilding our economy. One recent study concluded that U.S. has added over 500,000 manufacturing jobs since the shale revolution began. This shale revolution is completely dependent on two consistently improving American technologies: hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Without these two key technologies, all of the benefits we all experience every day would stop, our domestic energy resources would remain off limits from U.S. citizens, and the manufacturing jobs rebirth will end.
As our nation moves forward with safe, clean and affordable sources of energy, we cannot afford to exclude the benefits of the shale revolution. Rather, what we should do is embrace it and make sure that American resources are developed in a way that allows each and every American to benefit. For these reasons, we have authored H.R. 2728, the “Protecting States' Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act.”
States have been effectively regulating hydraulic fracturing on both government and privately owned lands for decades, and they have consistently opposed the federal government trying to trump state expertise in this area. Over the last twenty-plus years the last three administrations, two Democratic and one Republican, have all reached the same conclusion, that hydraulic fracturing has been done safely under state regulation. Therefore, adding duplicative federal regulations on top of state regulations, as is currently being proposed by the Department of Interior, does not make sense and is not an efficient use of scarce taxpayer dollars. Simply put, these new regulations are a solution in search of a problem.
The American people are looking for Washington to be better stewards of taxpayer dollars and produce legislation that improves the lives of all Americans, not legislation that impedes progress. To this end, the states are not asking for the federal government to step in. In fact, the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, a congressionally sanctioned voice of governors on oil and gas issues, recently passed a resolution asking the federal government not to get involved in this issue that the states know much more about. It does not make sense from a budgetary, environmental or energy policy perspective for the federal government to spend taxpayer money where it is not needed, or quite frankly, being asked for.
The federal government has a poor track record for issuing permits for production in a timely manner and we all know that bureaucracies tend to impede rather than improve economic progress. For example, it was recently reported that the onshore division of the Department of the Interior, with its 700 million acres of energy rich taxpayer-owned lands, issued as many permits in five years as Texas regulators issued for private and state owned lands within its borders in one year.
The federal government does not have to do everything, and, in many cases the states do things much better. There are vast differences in geology that have to be addressed as we produce energy across America. This is why a state-driven approach to regulation is so vital. Our confidence that the state experts, who have been regulating the use of these technologies for over fifty years, are best equipped to continue their effective regulation is why there is bipartisan support for letting the states retain the authority to do so, without Washington elbowing its way into everything.
Washington and the federal government have other things they should focus on, which is why we have introduced this bill to allow the states to continue to produce affordable energy in a safe, clean and reliable manner that will promote efficiency and save taxpayer dollars. The ultimate outcome of this effort will be more American manufacturing jobs, a better economy, a cleaner environment, a smaller deficit and American energy security.
Flores has represented Texas' 17th Congressional District since 2011. He sits on the Budget; the Natural Resources; and the Veterans Affairs committees. Cuellar has represented Texas' 28th Congressional District since 2005. He sits on the Appropriations Committee.