President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has made some efforts to limit hydraulic fracturing, a breakthrough technology in natural gas exploration, but the most damaging regulations await further study. In the meantime, the Transportation Department has reinterpreted an old rule in a way that undermines the industry.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently impeded the ability of truckers to deliver water and sand to drilling sites by reinterpreting a 50-year-old rule to limit the amount of time that truck drivers can work in a day.
“This is clearly an indication that somewhere up in the top echelons of this administration, there is a constant battle — a war going on — to try to artificially level the playing field between the oil and gas industry and the renewable [energy] industry,” Rep. Jeff Landry, R-La., told The Washington Examiner in a phone interview yesterday.
The new spin on the old rule “declares that [commercial motor vehicles] hauling water and sand in furtherance of oilfield activities are no longer able to use the waiting time exception,” Landry and over sixty other lawmakers wrote to Transportation Secretary LaHood last week. The new “guidance” on the old rule means that trucks carrying water and sand cannot stay at the work site for longer than 11 hours a day.
The Hill explained last week that “it is often necessary for drivers servicing oil and gas fields to stay on duty beyond 11 hours because these fields can be in remote areas accessible only by unpaved roads.” The new policy went into effect immediately, so that many truckers only learned of the change when they got in trouble with police, according to Landry’s office.
Because hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” uses more water and sand than other types of drilling, “it basically affects the fracking process more than other traditional energy exploration processes,” Landry said in the interview. “This regulation would greatly impact those processes and drive up the cost of exploration.”
The EPA is still studying the effects of hydraulic fracturing on groundwater sources, but the agency recently released air pollution rules pertaining to hydraulic fracturing that Sierra Club president Michael Brune called “an important first step” to regulating the technology.
An aide to Landry said that environmentalist groups advocated the new policy on wait times. “At a time when we have an opportunity to drive the energy costs to our consumers down, this administration wants to drive it up,” Landry said, dismissing Obama’s claim to have an “all of the above” energy policy. “It’s an all of the above war to rid us of our fossil fuel use.”