The article in the Tribune titled, "Helms says EPA could halt fracking in oil patch" (Nov. 28), is grounded in inaccurate information and is misleading. The EPA does not have a plan or the authority to stop oil and gas production. As referenced in the story, EPA has certain authority under the (federal) Safe Drinking Water Act to make sure that when hydraulic fracturing operations use diesel fuels, they do so in a manner that doesn't pollute water supplies or impact public health. The EPA is currently developing a draft guidance document that provides a flexible approach for permit writers to develop permits that protect drinking water sources. The guidance document is not intended to be a regulatory document and would not itself require any state to change its regulations. In fact, it is based on existing best practices in use by industry today.
The EPA has worked closely with all stakeholders, including states and the public, to develop an approach that meets the requirements of the law and that provides flexibility to permit writers while ensuring that drinking water sources are protected. The EPA has not made any final decisions on the guidance document and will provide additional opportunities for states, the public and other stakeholders to comment on the draft guidance as soon as it is ready.
The American people do not have to choose between securing an available energy resource and protecting drinking water from pollution. They can have and deserve both. The EPA looks forward to continuing this conversation in North Dakota and throughout the country.
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(Editor's note: Jim Martin is the Environmental Protection Agency administrator for Region 8 in Denver. His letter refers to comments made to a Tribune reporter by Lynn Helms, director of North Dakota's Department of Mineral Resources. In a series of three interviews, Helms said the EPA would establish a moratorium on fracking beginning in January. Helms now states he did not predict a specific time for such a moratorium.)