Unnamed-insiders speculate in The Washington Times:
“They’re trying to make it more difficult for the industry to survive while the president is standing in front of the country saying we’re going to create jobs through hydraulic fracturing,” said Ken von Schaumburg, former deputy counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency during the Bush administration.
Mr. Obama “is talking the game, but you can’t support the industry and then have this aggressive rule-making process going on,” Mr. von Schaumburg said.
At the same time the president boasts of the nation’s vast shale gas deposits, his EPA is poised to make extracting that fuel much more difficult. The agency will this year release a widely anticipated study on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the use of water, sand and chemical mixtures to crack underground rock and release huge quantities of gas. The practice is widely used in Pennsylvania, North Dakota and other states, and has helped revitalize small-town economies and led directly to the creation of thousands of jobs in recent years.
Many in the gas industry fear that the upcoming EPA study will call for harsh new regulations on the process, and many environmental groups – a key constituency for Mr. Obama during this year’s re-election bid – are publicly pushing the administration to outlaw fracking entirely.
Though this seems like some of this is speculation, there is no doubt that there are environmentalists who want to shut down hydraulic fracturing entirely. And the EPA did signal at the end of 2011 that it would regulate the waste water that is a byproduct of hydraulicly fractured wells, it still is not allowed to regulate the actual hydraulic fracturing of the wells themselves, as a provision in the 2005 energy bill prevented them from doing so.
This suggests that the EPA would need to request Congressional approval to regulate hydraulic fracturing, which the current Congress seems unlikely to grant. This isn’t to say its impossible, as the EPA has certainly found ways to go around the intent of existing federal statutes in the past. While fracking isn’t 100% safe, its worked pretty well so far in revitalizing a number of small towns and keeping natural gas prices low. Some environmentalists even support fracking because it displaces coal in electricity production.
While the EPA might intend to regulate hydyraulic fracturing in the future, they have their work cut out for them, and its at least a year or two away.