In a letter dated May 8, 2014, five U.S. senators urged the Office of Inspector (OIG) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discontinue its “preliminary research on the EPA’s and states’ ability to manage potential threats to water resources from hydraulic fracturing,” arguing that such a review is “well outside the mission and expertise of the OIG…[and] duplicative of numerous other federal efforts.”

The OIG announced its proposed research in a memorandum dated February 5, 2014, stating that it would evaluate the regulatory authority that is available to the EPA and the states, identify potential threats to water resources from fracturing operations, and evaluate how the EPA and the states have responded to these threats. According to the OIG, this research would improve preventative and response measures and improve coordination among the EPA, states and industry to ensure that water resources are protected.

The senators from Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas complain that the EPA has previously “conducted a number of indisputably flawed and unscientific investigations attempting to link hydraulic fracturing to water contamination and has continued to come up empty handed.” Moreover, the senators state that, with this additional research, the EPA is trying to “manufactur[e] a need for new regulations on a production technique that has been safely and effectively regulated at the state level for the better half of a century.” According to the senators, only state regulators with knowledge and expertise of their state’s geology, ecology, and hydrology and who have a vested interest in protecting their state’s water supplies from contamination are qualified to tailor regulatory programs to meet their state’s needs.

Pointing to extensive studies of hydraulic fracturing from the Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior, the Government Accountability Office, and the EPA, the senators urge that this research be stopped and that the OIG focus on “a more relevant and needed inquiry into fraud, abuse, and waste at the EPA.”

This post was written by Barclay Nicholson ( or 713.651.3662) from Norton Rose Fulbright’s Energy Practice Group.