OGDEN -- Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is taking the head of the National Park Service to task for comments he made about fracking and its impact, saying he used opinion, not fact, in regard to leakage rates from natural gas drilling.
In letters released this week, Bishop scolded Ron Jarvis, Park Service director, for his comments to the Bureau of Land Management on the proposed well-stimulation and hydraulic fracturing rule on federal and Indian lands. He said Jarvis relied on an opinion piece written by a Cornell professor regarding leakage rates from natural gas drilling, not scientific data. He said Jarvis' comments are inconsistent with the NPS's policy on the integrity of scientific and scholarship activities.
Jarvis' piece said methane leakage rates from oil and gas are as high as 17 percent. Bishop said that claim has been widely criticized and disproved by independent scientists.
Fracking is a method of fracturing rock by using a pressurized liquid. Hydraulic fracturing is a technique in which water is mixed with sand and chemicals, and the mixture is injected at a high pressure underground to create small factures where fluids, such as gas and other solutions, will migrate to a well. The method is heavily used on oil and gas wells worldwide and has been widely criticized by environmentalists.
"It is distressing to me that a taxpayer-funded agency, such as the Service, would rely on information that other agencies within the administration have discounted in official comments," Bishop said.
In Jarvis' response, the NPS director said use of the quote on fracking in a New York Times op-ed page was inappropriate. He told Bishop the comments were not submitted to appropriate review and were not signed. He said he has asked they be withdrawn from the record.
In a detailed response to specific questions Bishop raised, Jarvis said the Park Service does not rely on opinion as a basis for its decision making.
"The handling of these comments was contrary to National Park Service protocol and the staff that sent the comments was not clear on the appropriate review procedures. We have taken steps to ensure that all staff is informed of and follow appropriate review procedures for the handling of all future correspondence," Jarvis wrote to Bishop.
Bishop chairs the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation and points out that current data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows methane emissions from natural gas systems have declined by 11 percent since 1900, even as fracking has helped natural gas production increase in the United States.
He also told Jarvis that Utah's Division of Oil, Gas and Mining has responsibly managed and regulated oil and natural gas development for decades and recently enacted a regulation requiring oil and gas companies to disclose which substances are used during the fracturing process.