Protect Colorado energy production from heavy-hand of Washington

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the dramatic growth in the supply of domestic oil and natural gas that has turned American-made energy into our nation’s latest success story.

Nationally, the low price of these domestic energy resources has translated into billions of dollars of savings for the American consumer. According to a recent report from Citigroup, continued strength in domestic oil and gas exploration and production could generate 3.5 million new jobs over the next seven years while expanding GDP by as much as 3 percent. The unemployment rate would almost certainly be higher right now were it not for the job growth that has accompanied this domestic energy juggernaut.

This boom has been made possible by American ingenuity and advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Since 1947, fracking has been successfully and safely performed over 1.2 million times. Despite rumors and accusations, there hasn’t been a single documented case of contaminated drinking water.

Don’t just take my word for it. Gov. John Hickenlooper, a former geologist, and Lisa Jackson, former administrator of the EPA, have testified before Congress saying the same thing. As a member of the Energy & Commerce Committee in the U.S. House, I can assure you fracking is highly regulated, with a focus (as it should be) on safety.

icon_op_edOil and natural gas sits beneath our nation’s surface in varying geological layers, resulting in energy resources in Colorado that are very different than those in California or New York, just as Colorado’s Western Slope differs from the Eastern Plains. That’s why regulation of fracking is best left to the states, which are closest to the communities where development is taking place. States have the ability and authority to tailor regulations for their unique geology, hydrology, and other conditions to better protect the environment.

According to a recent national survey conducted by the Western Energy Alliance, the public agrees that individual states are best suited to oversee oil and natural gas development. Among the group’s key findings: 87 percent of those surveyed want domestic production to meet the growing demand for additional sources of energy, and more than 78 percent favor increased development of oil and natural gas in the U.S. Only 17 percent of those surveyed oppose the increased development of oil and natural gas.

Western states have long regulated fracking activities on both private and public land, and President Barack Obama’s own EPA concedes the effectiveness of these state regulations. Newly appointed Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell testified before Congress that as a petroleum engineer, she has “fracked a well before” and “understands the risk and rewards and that it’s essential and has been for decades.”

Unfortunately, this hasn’t stopped federal proposals that would add layers of costly regulation. While American citizens have taken notice of all that domestic energy production can do for our nation, some back in Washington seem intent on creating a new, top-down, one-size-fits-all fix to something that isn’t broken. Simply put, these regulations will result in less energy and reduced royalty and tax revenue for state, local and federal jurisdictions — revenue that is used to fund education, infrastructure, and job-creation programs throughout the West.

Oil and natural gas production is the economic lifeblood of Colorado, along with agriculture and tourism. As citizens of the West, where the majority of the land is owned by the federal government, we are rightfully alarmed at the disadvantage our states will suffer from another layer of duplicative federal regulation on top of state regulation. The West is the energy bread basket of the country, with major coal, oil, natural gas, wind and solar resources and we have been successfully utilizing and advancing each of these resources on our own.

The last thing Colorado needs is more heavy-handed regulations from a know-it-all Washington, D.C.

Cory Gardner represents Colorado’s 4th congressional district.  This op-ed originally appeared in the Denver Post.


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