US lawmakers protect natgas from new drilling regs
* Lawmakers says "fracking" rules will raise energy costs
* Fracking more widespread as shale gas production grows
By Tom Doggett
WASHINGTON, Jan 5 (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers pressed the Obama administration on the first day of the new Congress not to impose regulations curtailing drilling technique that taps hard-to-get natural gas reserves but has generated criticism about potential water pollution.
Thirty-two members of the Congressional Natural Gas Caucus called on the Interior Department on Wednesday not to hinder producers who use hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from underground rock formations.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in late November his department was considering requiring companies on federal lands to disclose contents of their fracking fluids, which are a mixture of water, sand and chemicals.
The fracking process has boosted U.S. natural gas supplies, but environmentalists fear chemicals used in the process are polluting underground drinking water sources.
The Environmental Protection Agency is studying the fracking process and has asked major drilling companies, like Halliburton (HAL.N), for information about the chemicals they use.
The group of lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, told Salazar that scientific evidence shows fracking is safe.
The caucus, led by co-chairs, Republican Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania and and Democrat Dan Boren of Oklahoma, said "hastily proposed regulatory burdens on natural gas will increase energy costs for consumers, suppress job creation in a promising energy sector and hinder our nation's ability to become more energy independent."
The lawmakers noted in a letter to Salazar that the administration has blocked expanding natural gas drilling to new offshore areas along the Atlantic Coast and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. They said fracking regulations would also hurt onshore drilling.
"Making it more difficult to safely access America's natural gas supply will only serve to enrich OPEC and stymie job growth," they said.
(Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by David Gregorio)