SALT LAKE CITY — House Democrats blocked a vote Tuesday on a symbolic pro-fracking resolution sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, to reaffirm that states retain regulatory authority over the practice on state and private lands.
The resolution, H656, also insisted that any U.S. president be prohibited from issuing a moratorium on hydraulic fracking on federal lands.
“In recent weeks many of the Democratic candidates for president have pledged to ban hydraulic fracturing in the United States, a campaign promise straight out of the ‘Keep it in the Ground’ playbook,” Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Arizona, said during the floor discussion. “While this widely used practice is often vilified by extreme environmentalists and proponents of the Green New Deal, in fact, hydraulic fracturing is heavily regulated by the states and governed by stringent industry standards throughout the country.”
Lesko added that after the introduction of hydraulic fracturing technology in the United States, U.S. gas bills dropped by $13 billion collectively every year from 2007 to 2013, and the technology is driving innovation in emissions reductions.
The Arizona Republican pointed to a 15% reduction in methane emissions since 1990, even as natural gas production has increased by 50%.
“In 2017, U..S. carbon emissions reached the lowest level since 1992, and per capita emissions reached the lowest level since 1950,” she said.
Lesko said banning domestic oil and gas production would return the country to a time when it was dependent on foreign nations.
“Utilizing America’s natural resources is a common sense step for America’s energy future,” she said. “America must be able to to utilize our natural resources for our economy and our national security.”
An analysis by the Western Energy Alliance, which represents independent oil and gas producers in Utah and elsewhere in the West, shows that 12 of 20 Democratic presidential hopefuls are in favor of banning energy development on Bureau of Land Management public lands, including Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
The analysis says that any presidential ban on oil and gas development on public lands would overstep laws passed by Congress. It added when President Barack Obama tried to invoke a moratorium on offshore drilling, it was overturned in the courts.
Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, said it is unfortunate the resolution did not advance because it would have been helpful messaging.
“Honestly, I’m not afraid of a presidential ban on fracking because it would quickly get squashed in the courts,” she said. “Fracking regulation is the domain of the states, and there’s simply no federal means to ban fracking without a new law from Congress. That’s not going to happen in the closely divided Congresses now and into the near- to medium-term future.”
The “Keep it in the Ground” phrase mentioned by Lesko refers to an active campaign by multiple environmental groups to stop any future fossil fuel development due to threats from climate change.