Oklahoma’s U.S. Senator James Inhofe, one of the oil-and-gas industry’s top champions on Capitol Hill and one of the country’s most high-profile deniers of the science of climate change, has been handed a predictable defeat by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Inhofe had hoped to prevent the EPA from evaluating potential threats to water sources posed by oil-and-gas hydraulic fracturing and looking into how states can manage those risks. He wrote a series of letters to the agency demanding it turn away from the plan.
But in a letter to Inhofe Monday, EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. reminded the senator that the Inspector General’s office is designed to function independently from Congress — partly to isolate it from politics and special interest pressure — and that he respectfully rejects the senator’s request to drop the fracking research.
“[A]fter considering all outside viewpoints presented to me, and the results of preliminary staff work, I have concluded that we will proceed with the review,” he wrote.
The agency’s staffers will detail the authority that exists in states around the country to regulate fracking and describe how authorities are in fact regulating the controversial drilling activity. It will also “identify potential threats to water resources from hydraulic fracturing and evaluate the EPA’s and states’ responses to them.”
Inhofe has been lobbying to halt the project for months. In a letter he wrote to Elkins in May with fellow Senate conservatives David Vitter, R-Louisiana; Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma; John Cornyn, R-Texas; and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, he didn’t hide his contempt for the EPA’s work.
The senators accused Elkins of overreaching in an attempt “to further the false narrative” that hydraulic fracturing is dangerous and states “are somehow improperly managing some fabricated risks.”
“We urge you to end this investigation and refocus any staff, funds or resources associated with it to a more relevant and needed inquiry into fraud, abuse and waste at the EPA,” they wrote.