Controversy surrounds U.S. fracking rule

March 21, 2012 at 8:10 AM

WASHINGTON, March 21 (UPI) -- The White House is preventing government agencies from protecting the public from dangers associated with hydraulic fracturing, an advocate said.

U.S. President Barack Obama, in a January address, lauded the emerging shale natural gas boom in the United States. Shale gas is extracted by hydraulic fracturing of underground rock formations, a process known also as fracking.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it would exempt rural housing loans from reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act, which may otherwise impede the development of natural gas drilling.

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch, said the decision puts the American public at risk.

"This recent ruling is the antithesis of good public policy," she said in a statement. "The Obama administration should stop pandering to the oil and gas industry."

Hauter said the ruling could transfer debt burdens and liability to U.S. taxpayers.

The program in question is related to single-family housing loans offered by the Department of Agriculture.

Obama said during his State of the Union address that more than 600,000 jobs would come from the U.S. natural gas sector. There's enough natural gas in the United States to last "100 years," he said.

And I'm requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use," he said. "America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk."

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