The EPA’s inspector general, Arthur Elkins, Jr., has rejected Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) appeal for the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to drop its review of the agency and the states’ ability to manage potential threats to water resources from hydraulic fracturing. In his October 16th letter responding to Sen. Inhofe, Mr. Elkins noted that, while inspectors general (IG) report their findings to Congress and their agency heads, they do not take direction from either in deciding what to review. He added that the Inspector General Act does not require IGs to explain why they should be allowed to continue their work, and that, in his opinion, interference by Congress or the agency is contrary to the statute.

Sen. Inhofe’s October 2nd letter noted that the OIG’s mission is to conduct oversight to “prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse” in EPA programs and operations, rather than to conduct regulatory investigations. The letter alleges that the ongoing review falls in the latter category, and is inappropriate, especially given its review of state regulations – not federal. Sen. Inhofe also mounted a strong defense of the environmental integrity of the hydraulic fracturing process, noting that over one million wells have been hydraulically fractured since 1949 without a single confirmed case of groundwater contamination. He added that the state-level regulatory regime for hydraulic fracturing has been analyzed extensively by the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) in a report released this month entitled State Oil and Gas Regulations Designed to Protect Water Resources. The GWPC’s report concludes that “states have substantially improved groundwater protection laws and regulations governing oil and natural gas production” to address the substantial industry growth.