The controversy over hydraulic fracking heated up in Washington on Friday.
Two large petroleum industry groups are suing the US government over new rules on the oil extraction practice that has divided public opinion across the country.
Fracking is a process by which companies extract oil from shale rock. It’s generally considered to be faster and more efficient than other methods of extraction, like conventional offshore oil-rig drilling.
But critics have argued for years the process contaminates local water supplies with methane and other toxic chemicals.
The new rules will force companies doing business on federal and tribal lands to strengthen cement barriers around wells and increase standards on storage for waste.
But Republican lawmakers and petroleum industry groups don’t see the need for the new rules.
Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe – a leading proponent of fracking – calls them “duplicative” and “unnecessary” saying the rules will, “make it more costly and arduous for our nation to pursue energy security”.
The Western Energy Alliance and the Independent Petroleum Association of America are now suing the federal government over the new rules.
“These new mandates on hydraulic fracturing,” says Barry Russell, president and CEO of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, “are the complete opposite of commonsense.”
He argues that fracking has been done in the US safely, “for over 60 years”. Meanwhile, Sally Jewell, the US interior secretary, says the new rules are not an attempt to undermine the oil business but rather, “to modernise our regulations to make sure they can keep up with evolving technologies.”