San Joaquin Valley, California --- Rows of Pipes at a Natural Gas Pipeline

The last few years have been bumpy ones for energy supplies and prices, but one piece of good news has been the upturn in domestic natural gas production. The reason is a technology called hydraulic fracturing that makes it possible to produce gas in areas where it had previously been deemed infeasible. In effect, high pressure fluids are injected underground to free the gas beneath rock formations where the energy would otherwise be trapped. America has a lot of these formations, which many in the energy industry previously thought were inaccessible. Instead, domestic natural gas production has been increasing in recent year. This is particularly good news given the importance of natural gas – for electricity production, residential and business use, and as a feedstock in the fertilizer and chemicals industry.

Leave it to Congress to try to take away the good news. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) are expected to introduce a bill requiring hydraulic fracturing to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. Proponents of hydraulic fracturing fear that the natural gas boom could come to an abrupt end should EPA regulators apply this statute to natural gas wells.

The federal Safe Drinking Water Act has never been applied to hydraulic fracturing, nor has there been any need to do so. The notion that the fluids could contaminate drinking water supplies is purely hypothetical. It has literally never happened. State regulation of the process has been more than adequate to protect public health.

This proposal is a solution in search of a problem. Or more precisely, yet another weak excuse to crack down even further on domestic energy production.