Hoeven: EPA Rules Need to Be Workable, Clear and Create Certainty

States Need to Continue to Manage Hydraulic Fracturing

WASHINGTON – At a hearing Wednesday of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, Senator John Hoeven told Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson that any rules the agency implements need to be clear and workable to empower investment and develop more energy. Hoeven pressed Jackson on a range of new regulatory measures the agency is planning to implement for hydraulic fracturing and coal-fired power plants. EPA is overregulating and overburdening energy development in the country, he said. 

“Companies need to know the rules of the road, so that they can invest in the kinds of new technologies that will produce more energy with better environmental stewardship,” Hoeven said. “Also, states need to be able to continue to manage hydraulic fracturing accounting for their own circumstances rather than have the EPA impose a one-size-fits-all approach across the country.” 

Hydraulic Fracturing 

Hoeven has pressed the EPA to provide a process for states to provide input on the diesel fracking guidelines, saying the definition of diesel fuel needs to be realistic and definitive and the states need adequate time to implement them. 

This month, the agency released draft permitting guidance for using diesel fuel in oil and gas hydraulic fracturing that would require states to update their underground injection control program.  Hoeven said the guidance is troublesome, however, because the rules are bureaucratic and vague and in some cases mechanically impossible to implement. 

For example, the draft guidance is not limited to the six Chemical Abstract Service Registry Numbers that are defined as “diesel.”  Throughout the guidance EPA uses phrases like “substantially similar,” “several others,” and “common synonyms,” which make unclear precisely what chemicals will be regulated as diesel.  Jackson committed to working with industry, states and tribes to address the issue. 


Hoeven also pressed Jackson to finalize a workable rule on the Synthetic Minor Source Rule, which applies on tribal and federal lands. Currently, the agency has a temporary consent agreement with the Fort Berthold Reservation but it expires at the end of July. Without a workable rule and certainty, companies could be forced to halt drilling on the reservation. 


The senator told Jackson that the agency’s New Source Performance Standards for CO2 as it applies to coal-fired electric plants is not workable. Last month, the agency published proposed rules to establish standards for greenhouse gas emissions for new power plants. The proposed rule requires new power plants to meet an output-based standard of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, which is the equivalent of the output from a new natural gas combined-cycle power plant. 

Hoeven said no coal plant in the country can meet that standard and asked if it applies to existing plants, or just new facilities. Jackson said it will apply only to new plants, and would not apply to existing plants or renovation of existing plants. 

“The proposed rule is not economically or technologically viable,” Hoeven said. “In order to continue to develop clean coal technology, we need to have a realistic rule.”