The CLEAN Future Act Could Cripple the American Oil & Gas Industry

The House Energy & Commerce Committee leadership’s CLEAN Future Act is being presented as “comprehensive legislation to combat the climate crisis” – but we take issue with this characterization, and with many of the provisions of the legislation that would cripple our nation’s oil and gas industry.

First, the best way to “combat the climate crisis” is through innovation and technology, not through bad policy that creates restrictive, duplicative, overlapping, and overburdensome regulatory requirements on American businesses.

From social media to satellites, we know that technology is the way to solve the world’s toughest challenges and improve quality of life.  Addressing the risks of climate change is no different: innovation and technology are the solutions needed to truly combat the problem.

Independent oil and gas producers support innovative, collaborative solutions that lower greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) emissions, while meeting the world’s growing need for abundant, low-cost, reliable energy. Examples of our industry’s innovative efforts to reduce emissions include: methane reduction technologies, hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies, Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS), and U.S. liquified natural gas (U.S. LNG).

Second, the CLEAN Future Act includes provisions that punitively target the oil and gas industry and, if enacted, would cripple industry’s ability to continue safely producing domestic oil and natural gas.  The bill would harm American jobs, American communities, and our economic recovery; undercut the nation’s energy security; increase costs on families and job creators; and make us more reliant on foreign oil.

Take, for example, Section 623, which would go against EPA’s own conclusions to give the agency the authority to essentially shut down hydraulic fracturing nationwide by taking authority to regulate away from the states and putting it in the hands of the political appointees at EPA.  Currently, oil and gas producing states each have comprehensive laws and regulations, coupled with decades of regulatory experience, to provide for safe operations and to protect groundwater and drinking water sources.

In drafting the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Congress never intended for the SDWA to regulate short-term underground injection such as hydraulic fracturing.  The CLEAN Future Act is an attempt to change the SDWA to go against Congressional intent and the science of groundwater protection.  State regulators best understand the unique nature of each oil and gas producing basin within their borders, whereas creating a new federal regulatory regime within a massive bureaucracy would undermine the benefits of that expertise. Indeed, more than 25 scientific, peer-reviewed studies and expert assessments have concluded that hydraulic fracturing is not a major threat to groundwater, the process is already successfully regulated by the states, and the states and EPA coordinate the sharing of best practices through organizations like the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) and the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC).

Section 625 of the CLEAN Future Act could result in EPA unreasonably reclassifying produced waters and other wastes as “hazardous” – risking a situation where production itself comes to a standstill due to a lack of capacity for permanent disposal under the new classification.

The CLEAN Future Act ignores the fact that the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) already requires the agency to reassess the classification of these wastes every three years.  The management of production wastes under RCRA’s solid waste (non-hazardous) program is well-established and has been verified through multiple reviews and assessments, spanning decades, and most recently by EPA in 2019 – all concluding that these wastes are robustly and properly managed by states and validating the existing regulatory approach.

When taken individually, these provisions are problematic for the industry. When combined, they would make it extremely difficult for domestic oil and gas companies to continue to produce affordable, reliable energy to America and the world.

The oil and natural gas industry is one of the most highly regulated industries in the United States. Across all levels of energy operations, local, state, and federal regulations help ensure the wellbeing of our environment and communities, and the safety of our employees and contractors.

The onshore upstream industry supported 3.2 million jobs, $297 billion in labor income, and generated $493.1 billion in value added to the American economy in 2019.   These economic benefits would be greatly compromised by the unworkable and unnecessary federal regulatory mandates directed in this legislation.

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