Appearing in one of the most heavily-drilled regions of Pennsylvania, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney called President Barack Obama “an anti-energy president.”
Romney made his comments in Tunkhannock, Wyoming County, at a company that supplies water to natural gas drillers.
The Republican presidential candidate’s argument: under the Obama Administration, federal regulation of oil and natural gas drilling has increased, to the detriment of production. “For years, this technology, using fluids, fracking technology, to bring gas and oil out of the ground…[has] been regulated by the states,” Romney said. “But now this president has eight different agencies trying to fight their way to become regulators of gas extraction known as fracking. And the intent of course is to slow down the development of our own resources.”
The Environmental Protection Agency and Departments of Energy; Interior; Justice; Agriculture; Health and Human Services; and Securities and Exchange Commission have all regulated or investigated hydraulic fracturing in recent years. The Department of Defense plays a major role in shaping eastern Pennsylvania drilling policy, since the Army Corps of Engineers holds a vote on the Delaware River Basin Commission.
One instance where federal and state agencies are clashing over drilling regulation: Dimock, Susquehanna County, about 15 miles away from where Romney spoke. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has blamed Cabot Oil and Gas for polluting about a dozen homes’ water supplies, but allowed the company to stop supplying drinking water to those families in December, after Cabot complied with the terms of a consent order agreement. About a month later, the EPA effectively overruled the state agency, and supplied its own water to Dimock residents. Preliminary tests conducted by the EPA found no health threat in 11 homes’ water supplies.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection Secretary, Michael Krancer, has blasted the EPA’s involvement, calling the agency’s knowledge of the Dimock situation “rudimentary.”
In recent months, President Obama has pushed back against the argument he’s “anti-energy.” He has blamed his decision to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline on a “rushed” timeline determined by Congress, and fast-tracked a portion of the project. Obama said domestic oil production has increased during his tenure, and he gave natural gas drilling a ringing endorsement during his State of the Union address in January:
We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly one hundred years, and my Administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.
The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy. And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of thirty years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock – reminding us that Government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.
Romney’s appearance was billed as “an energy event” by the Romney campaign, but the candidate spent just two minutes discussing energy policy. Reporters from StateImpact Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette both tried to ask Romney about drilling regulation as he shook voters’ hands, but the governor ignored the questions. He did, however, answer a query about whether or not Augusta National, the golf club hosting the Masters golf tournament, should allow women to become members.