EPA Deems Fracking Safe as States Debate New Drilling Laws

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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson sees "only an upside to hydraulic fracturing," according to the New York Post. Jackson spoke at an energy conference in New Jersey last week to discuss fracking and to address environmental concerns over the controversial process of unearthing natural gas deposits from shale. The Post reports President Barack Obama also believes fracking will lead to job creation and does not mean America will have to choose between protecting our environment and bolstering the economy.

Here are some facts about the New Jersey energy conference and statements from federal EPA officials.

* Jackson said fracking is "perfectly capable of being clean" but requires technology innovators to make sure it's done right, according to the Asbury Park Press. Jackson added "smart regulation" is needed.

* During a U.S. House Oversight Committee hearing last year, Jackson testified she was not aware of any water contamination case proved to have been caused by fracking. The Asbury Park Press reports EPA groundwater impact investigations are ongoing and a final report is expected by the end of the year.

* Business Week reports the EPA released 622 documents from the agency's water contamination report in Pavillion, Wyo., during a Capitol Hill meeting in February. The findings included elevated benzene levels near fracking well sites. EPA officials cautioned against making a generalization about fracking and water contamination, stating the results were specific to the region in Wyoming studied.

* Multiple states are grappling with fracking and natural gas exploration legislation. The Huffington Post reports Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett will likely sign a bill this week to strengthen safety standards, limit local governmental interference with drilling and for the gas industry to pay for new local and state programs. Pennsylvania is one of the largest shale producing states and one of the few that does not require a levy on natural gas activity.

* Environmental activists continue to work to enact fracking bans and feel empowered by the recent New York Supreme Court ruling upholding home rule statutes to prevent local drilling, according to the New York Post. New York is the only state with a "blanket" ban on fracking. Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens is still reviewing the state's review of statewide and municipal powers to prevent natural gas exploration.

* New fracking legislation was introduced in New Jersey last week that pits senate Democrats against the Republican governor. The Senate Environment and Energy Committee approved a fracking ban bill in early February, according to the Statehouse Bureau. Bill passage came months after Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar piece of legislation altering the existing ban in favor of a one-year drilling moratorium. Democratic bill sponsors Linda Greenstein and Robert Gordon believe large deposits of Utica shale might exist under Warren and Sussex counties.

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