Hydraulic Fracturing Operations Photo Credit: Bartek Sadowski/Bloomberg

Hydraulic fracturing stories took the number one, three and four spots on the list of top five Bloomberg BNA Energy and Climate Report stories for the week ending Oct. 17. Other stories covered the ongoing controversy over the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rulemaking to control carbon emissions from power plants.

1. Misperception Complicates Discussion About Fracking Regulations, Panelists Say

Public confusion over the practices involved in hydraulic fracturing have complicated efforts to study and regulate aspects of the process, according to environmental and industry advocates, whose remarks are covered in this story.

“Hydraulic fracturing has evolved to mean a lot more things than fracturing open a rock,” Jason Hutt, a partner at Bracewell & Giuliani, said during a panel discussion at the American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy and Resources fall conference in Miami.

Dan Grossman, regional director of the Environmental Defense Fund's Rocky Mountain Office, also said the term has become a “surrogate for oil and gas development writ large,” which can complicate efforts to ensure that fracked wells are developed responsibly.

2. Republicans Say E-Mails Show NRDC Colluded on Major EPA Rulemakings

E-mails released Oct. 14 by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee show collusion between the EPA and the Natural Resources Defense Council in drafting carbon emissions standards for power plants and other major rules, Luke Bolar, a spokesman for committee Republicans, said in an e-mail, which is covered in this story.

The e-mails show communication between EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and top officials at the NRDC on topics ranging from EPA staffing decisions to agency rulemakings regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

The e-mails were obtained during an investigation led by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) into allegations that the NRDC played an out-sized role in the development of the power plant rule.

3. EPA Asks Court to Clarify Order Allowing Lawsuit Over Job Impacts of Clean Air Rules

As covered in this story, the EPA asked a federal court for a clarification of why the court ruled that it has jurisdiction to preside over a coal mining company's claim that the EPA must fulfill a mandate to assess the employment impacts of Clean Air Act regulations, including proposed carbon standards for power plants.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia issued an order Sept. 16 saying the plaintiff, Murray Energy Corp., could proceed with its case because Section 321(a) of the law imposed amandatory duty to assess job impacts, and Section 304 of the law allows citizen lawsuits when the EPA fails to perform a mandatory duty.

The EPA's clarification request asked which part of Section 304 provided the basis for the court decision—Section 304(a)(2) on the failure to perform a discretionary duty, or the provision in Section 304(a) giving federal district courts jurisdiction to compel “agency action unreasonably delayed.”

4. Methane Health Effects Will Be Next Issue to Confront Fracking Industry, Lawyer Says

Potential adverse health effects from air emissions generated from hydraulic fracturing, especially methane, will emerge as a major issue the industry needs to address, an environmental lawyer told a conference, whose remarks are covered in this story.

“This is the next real battleground where we're going to see headlines,” Eric Klein, an associate with Beveridge & Diamond, said. Of particular concern is methane, which is also a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, he said.

Preliminary research has shown that methane emissions may cause health problems, such as headaches, dizziness and even cancer, in people who work in the vicinity of fracking wells, he said. “The science is undeveloped here,” he said at a conference in Philadelphia on sustainable property transactions.

5. Oil, Gas Companies Lobby White House to Block Hydraulic Fracturing Rule

As covered in this story, representatives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Halliburton, Chesapeake Energy Corp. and other oil and gas producers met with White House officials and urged them not to proceed with a final rule to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands, online meeting records show.

The rule, which was proposed by the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management and is being vetted by the White House Office of Management and Budget, will have significant impacts on the industry, and its effects have not been adequately analyzed, according to an American Petroleum Institute handout distributed at the meeting.

“The BLM rule adds an unnecessary and duplicative layer of regulation on top of the already strong and stringent state regulation of hydraulic fracturing,” the document said. “This added layer will increase costs, delay permitting, and will slow domestic energy production all at the expense of the American taxpayer.”



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