WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - While testifying before a House subcommittee about fracking, a Pennsylvania official was told by the committee's ranking member that his views about federal and state interaction were similar to a segregationist's arguments about Jim Crow laws.
U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., made the comment May 31 to Pennsylvania Secretary of Environmental Protection Michael Krancer during a meeting of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform.
The hearing was titled: "Rhetoric or Reality, Assessing the Impact of New Federal Red Tape on Hydraulic Fracturing and American Energy Independence." The subcommittee heard testimony about the impact federal regulations have regarding hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - and the development of energy resources in the United States.
Environmentalists and their allies in government claim fracking is a dangerous health hazard.
During the hearing, Rep. JamesLankford, R-Okla., the committee chairman, wanted to know why the fracking process is an urgent concern by the Environmental Protection Agency, even though the bureau has said there are no proven examples of fracking causing a health hazard.
Krancer posited that natural gas was never seen by those who oppose mining and drilling as being a viable energy source. Since the discovery of fields such as Bakken and Marcellus, natural gas is now a potential prime energy source in the future - therefore mining and drilling opponents have become active.
Connolly then asked Krancer if he believed that because Pennsylvania is "robust and diligent" in regulating fracking, does he think the other states would be as well. Connolly wanted to know if Krancer believes that only state regulation was needed.
Krancer said he knew that the states which regulate fracking do it well. He also said it is not done in every state. But even if they do not regulate fracking now Krancer said he believed, "They as states - and I can say this as my experience as a state regulator - are in the best position to know their states, to know what to do, and to get the regulatory plan that they need in their state."
But Connolly was not satisfied. He wanted Krancer to say that the federal government should be the primary regulatory authority for fracking in each state.
"You would concede... that there could be a state where fracturing is in fact occurring that is not as robust and diligent as Pennsylvania," asked Connolly.
Krancer responded, "I can concede also that Sasquatch is in the woods, but that doesn't get us anywhere."
Connolly then asserted that Krancer does not think the federal government has a role. Krancer responded that he believes the issue is whether the federal government should have a "preemptive" role. He said he does not think it should.
Connolly then responded, "I would simply say those are the same kinds of arguments that have been used for generations against federal involvement. If we were talking 40, 50 years ago, for example, Jim Crow laws in the South and the civil rights movement, we would have heard testimony right here at this table..."
Krancer interrupted Connolly, who asserted his authority to silence Krancer. When Krancer continued to try to respond, Connolly asked the chairman to silence Krancer. Connolly concluded his comments by saying that he believed the contention that, "there is no preemptive role by the federal government has been proved wrong by history."
Later during the hearing Krancer was again asked by Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., about the Dimock case. This is a Pennsylvania town which became famous after a small independent movie was made about alleged pollution of groundwater caused by fracking. The allegations were proven false after testing by state and federal environmental regulators.
But Krancer resented the EPA's involvement. He said the state had been monitoring the situation and for unknown reasons, the EPA has "to come in as a big brother or white knight or whatever to come to do water testing and supply water to four families."
Krancer then noted that EPA's reports that there was no pollution would be announced late on a Friday afternoon when the news media and public would not notice. He then remarked that he has never been accused before of being in favor of Jim Crow, "because of my views on federal and state relationships."