Lawmakers Seek Inquiry of Natural Gas Industry


"The House Committee on Natural Resources hopes to meet in coming weeks as concerns mount on all sides."

New York Times, Ian Urbina

Federal lawmakers called Tuesday on several agencies, including the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, the Energy Information Administration and the Government Accountability Office, to investigate whether the natural gas industry has provided an accurate picture to investors of the long-term profitability of their wells and the amount of gas these wells can produce.

"Given the rapid growth of the shale gas industry and its growing importance for our country's energy portfolio, I urge the S.E.C. to quickly investigate whether investors have been intentionally misled," wrote Representative Maurice D. Hinchey, Democrat of New York, in one of three letters sent to the commission by four federal lawmakers, all Democrats.

The calls for investigations came amid growing questions about the environmental and financial risks surrounding natural gas drilling and especially a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, used to release gas trapped underground in shale formations.

Members of the House Committee on Natural Resources said they hoped to hold a hearing in the next several weeks to discuss natural gas drilling.

Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, asking it to look into questions about the environmental impacts of hydrofracking, the accuracy of reserves estimates, and industry regulation.

State lawmakers also sought more information.

Voicing strong support for the natural gas industry, a bipartisan group of eight federal lawmakers from gas-producing states sent a letter to President Obama on Monday asking him to promote continued natural gas development "by any means necessary, but most specifically, by unconventional shale gas recovery."

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