Republicans also want to strike President Obama's six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling and have raised a fuss about last-minute language inserted into the bill that would impose new transparency requirements on a controversial method of extracting natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing, known in the environmental community as "fracking," involves injecting a mixture of sand, water, and chemicals underground in order to crack the rock and release gas. Environmentalists worry that fracking contaminates nearby water supplies and have lobbied Congress to regulate the bill under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Reid's oil bill does not go this far, but it does require companies who rely on fracking to disclose the chemicals they are using.
Lee Fuller, vice president of government relations for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said that his primary reaction to the language, which was hastily added late last night, is that it's "poorly thought out." Natural gas producers often don't know exactly which chemicals they're pumping underground, he explained, since they purchase the chemicals from producers who have proprietary rights to them. These producers provide safety sheets so that the natural gas companies can manage the risk of the chemicals, but Fuller said that disclosing the specific chemicals would be legally impossible at this point.
"The issue seems to be a desire to provide some information to the public, to people living near well sites," Fuller said. "But there needs to be a way to put it out in context -- to explain how you're managing it, what you're doing to protect the environment."
Because Reid is expected to block amendments to the bill, it is unlikely that Republicans would be able to negotiate a compromise on the liability cap, the moratorium, or fracking. If Reid can't pick up any Republican votes and loses the pro-cap Democrats, his bill will be the latest pre-recess casualty.
This article available online at: