After Jackson, EPA faces big decisions on U.S. fracking boom

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The past four years of U.S. environmental regulation was marked by a crackdown on emissions that angered coal miners and power companies. Over the next four, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency will have to decide whether to take on an even larger industry: Big Oil.

Following Lisa Jackson’s resignation on Wednesday, her successor will inherit the tricky task of regulating a drilling boom that has revolutionized the energy industry but raised fears over the possible contamination of water supplies.

The controversial technique at the center of the boom, hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting millions of gallons of water laced with chemicals deep into shale rocks to extract oil and gas. It has become a flashpoint issue, putting the EPA — charged with safeguarding the nation’s water — in the middle of a fight between environmentalists and the energy industry.

Both sides now eagerly await a major EPA research project into fracking’s effects on water supplies due in 2014, as well as final rules on issues including the disposal of wastewater and the use of ‘diesel’ chemicals in the process.

It is unclear who will take the role, but the incoming chief may have a “huge impact” on the oil and gas industry, says Robert McNally, a White House energy adviser during the George W. Bush administration who now heads the Rapidan Group, a consulting firm.

Read More at . By Jonathan Leff and Joshua Schneyer.

Photo credit: (Creative Commons)

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