Daniel Jakubovitz: Stakeholder Interview

Steve Hvozdovich is the Marcellus Campaign Coordinator for Clean WaterAction’s Pennsylvania office. He has traveled across Pennsylvania lobbying, rallying,and educating people about the Marcellus Shale and the potential dangers of thegrowing fracking industry. Clean Water Action is a grassroots environmentalorganization aimed at protecting the environment, securing safe water, andensuring a quality of life for all community members. His answers are paraphrased.

What are the positive or negative consequences of enacting federal frackingregulations?
The benefits of enacting federal regulations are that it will create universalrules and laws that apply to the industry across all 50 states. Since we don’tcurrently have strong federal guidance across this industry, we have a patchwork ofregulations across the states. One state may have adequate rules to protect theenvironment and public health while another state may not. This is especially truewhen it comes to the disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process, as somestates require certain levels of disclosure while others are more lax about the issue.We have had state regulators who have been slow to develop and have not beenadequate in their jobs, and as a result we have allowed the industry to call the shotsand begin developing fracking in a manner that threatens the environment.

What impact does the Halliburton Loophole continue to have on the industry and onpolicy in Washington?
The Halliburton Loophole was really the catalyst that started the ball rolling.When that exemption was put in place, it limited the federal government’s ability tohave oversight over the practice, forcing them to pass the buck down to the states. Ithink closing the loophole through legislation like the FRAC Act is a great step, but itwon’t solve all the issues. But having the FRAC Act pass would be a great first steptoward empowering the federal government to have more oversight.

Will more federal regulations work to rally more support from the general public forfracking?
People are currently wary of the industry and how safe it is because it seemslike the oil and gas industry is getting a lot of exemptions and there isn’t strongoversight. A variety of universities have conducted polls in which the public has saidthat they support more oversight. The only way for us to truly know if the practicecan be done safely is to have more regulations and oversight in place, which is whatthe public certainly wants to see as well.

How has the current regulatory framework had an impact on the environment?
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has examined161 cases in the past year in which they said natural gas drilling operations havecontaminated people’s drinking water, so absolutely this industry acting in theabsence of federal regulations is having a negative impact. You see more watercontaminations and more lax regulations on the industry state by state.

What are the biggest obstacles toward enacting more federal regulations?
There are two big obstacles. The first one is industry influence throughcampaign donations and lobbying. They obviously have a strong lobbying arm andthey’ve been proven to give large amounts of money to congressional candidates,especially in those states where natural gas drilling is occurring. The other reason isbecause we are still in challenging economic times and people see this developmentas a source of jobs. In this difficult economic time, nobody wants to be the personwho’s painted as being against job growth and so they are reluctant to put any sortof burden on the industry.