Fracking regulations could ease public concerns: White House

WASHINGTON Tue Apr 26, 2011 3:57pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The natural gas industry should support "common sense" regulation to ease public worries about potential water contamination from hydraulic fracturing, a drilling practice vital to the U.S. shale gas boom, White House economic adviser Gene Sperling said on Tuesday.

Advances in the technique, known as fracking, have allowed drillers to tap abundant U.S. shale gas reserves. Sperling said natural gas drillers and their supporters should back rules to address concern about the impact of fracking on the environment and drinking water.

"Common sense regulation that builds the public trust that fracking does not put at risk clean or safe drinking water is not the obstacle to natural gas extraction," Sperling said at an Energy Information Administration conference. "It is the pathway to doing so."

Fracking, which involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into rock formations to obtain oil and gas, is mostly exempt from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversight.

Drillers dispute the contention that fracking has contaminated drinking water. They maintain that state oversight of fracking is sufficient and warn that federal regulations would hurt U.S. natural gas output.

Last week, a blowout at a Chesapeake Energy natural gas well spewed thousands of gallons of fracking fluid in northeastern Pennsylvania.

The EPA is conducting a two-year study on the safety of fracking. Environmental groups and some lawmakers have called on Congress to provide the agency with more authority to police the practice.

Sperling said the Obama administration, which has made natural gas a cornerstone of its energy policy, was working to develop a framework for promoting shale gas production. He did not offer specifics on what type of regulation the administration would support.

While fracking fluid suppliers such as Halliburton and shale gas producers such as Range Resources Corp have begun voluntarily disclosing chemicals used in fracking, most industry groups oppose federal regulation of fracking. (Editing by David Gregorio)

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