Pennsylvania

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Jackson’s Replacement Will Have To Focus On Fracking

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testifies at a Congressional hearing in May, 2011. Jackson is stepping down from her job next month.

Natural gas drilling will no doubt play a major role in the life of whoever President Obama nominates to succeed Lisa Jackson as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator.

Jackson announced last week that she’ll step down in January.

Among other things, the EPA is currently conducting a major study into the risks hydraulic fracturing poses to drinking water.  Bloomberg has more on the challenges Jackson’s replacement will face:

“The top issue on everyone’s radar right now is fracking,” Don Elliott, a former EPA official who is a lawyer and professor at Yale Law School, said in an interview. “How EPA weighs in on it is very important.”

On the one hand, the glut of natural gas has allowed power plants to shift away from dirtier coal-fueled production; on the other, local activists and environmental groups such as the Sierra Club complain that gas production is fouling the water, triggering earthquakes, and even causing global warming from the methane emissions that escape during production and transport.

EPA’s study on the impact of fracking on drinking water is scheduled for release in 2014. Analysts say it could lead Congress to rewrite federal rules for the oversight of the practice or the agency to issue further regulations. Fracking is now primarily overseen by state regulators.

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