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Bipartisan Group of Senators Concerned About EPA’s Overly Broad Diesel Fuel Definition

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ranking members of the Senate Committees on Energy and Natural Resources and Environment and Public Works Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and James M. Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), today joined Sens. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) and Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) in sending a bipartisan letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to express concern about the approach the agency seems to be taking to regulate hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) when diesel fuel is used.   

“My greatest concern lies with the extremely broad approach that EPA appears to be taking in defining diesel fuel,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski added. “Based on what we’ve seen so far, EPA’s upcoming guidance could pose a serious risk to state primacy and seriously stall domestic development, as states struggle to rewrite regulations and re-permit wells.”  

“I am pleased to be working with such a key group of bipartisan senators on this issue,” said Sen. James Inhofe.  “The use of hydraulic fracturing is critical in our nation’s efforts to access our own resources which will create jobs and lead us to greater energy security.  The way EPA defines the term ‘diesel fuel’ is vital in allowing energy production to move forward and should be done in a sensible manor that is transparent and easily understandable.  As ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works I continue to conduct strong oversight into potential regulations on hydraulic fracturing to ensure the practice continues safely as it has for over 60 years."  

Hydraulic fracturing is excluded from EPA regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, except when diesel fuel is used.  After deciding last year to pursue new federal regulations, the agency has raised several red flags about how it is choosing to proceed.  One example comes from a presentation posted on EPA’s website, which shows the agency is considering a standard for “diesel fuel” from 1991 that was meant for diesel engines and that has subsequently been amended 47 times. A broad definition may also capture many substances – such as mineral oil – that are not actually diesel fuel. 

The bipartisan letter implores EPA to proceed carefully, in an open and transparent manner, as it contemplates greater federal regulation of diesel fuel used in hydraulic fracturing operations. The senators also request that EPA consider input from all stakeholders to ensure that any new regulations do not unnecessarily harm the nation’s energy producers. 

“We believe that EPA should follow the precedent that it has established on its own Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) and use Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) numbers to define ‘diesel fuel,’” the senators wrote. “EPA must work with the states to ensure that states can effectively and efficiently address any proposed guidance. This will provide maximum clarity to all stakeholders and ensure maximum compliance, while allowing a path forward for responsible energy development.” 

New EPA guidance on the use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing may appear as soon as January 2012 and could have serious effects on states’ primacy as well as create burdensome permitting requirements that could have widespread implications for oil and gas development across the country. 

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