Last month, the Obama administration's Environmental Protection Agency issued 588 pages of new regulations to control alleged "air pollution" from natural-gas wells. The anti-carbon crowd believes that adding another layer of regulatory "oversight," with its attendant compliance costs, will somehow retard development of this abundant and versatile domestic energy resource.EPA's concern is that when fracking fluids are withdrawn from gas wells, some volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene rise to the surface. But a 2010 report from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found only two cases out of 94 monitoring sites where VOC and methane levels exceeded state guidelines.Responsible drilling companies across the nation already use technologies developed in the North Texas Barnett Shale to capture the vast majority of these gases. EPA's imposition of additional monitoring and reporting requirements will simply drive up the cost of gas production with no significant health or environmental benefits.The EPA may have exceeded its mandate with these new directives. Under the Clean Air Act, the agency has authority to regulate emissions of volatile organic compounds. But the new rules are focused primarily on methane emissions, even though they're not currently covered by the act. In any case, this new set of federal rules largely duplicates state regulations already in place.Now the Interior Department is about to issue numerous new environmental and safety rules pursuant to hydraulic fracturing for natural gas on federal lands. Though only 25 to 30 percent of fracked wells are on federal lands, these rules also may become the template for fracking on private leases.The underlying rationale for these new regulations is to ensure that fracking doesn't contaminate groundwater or cause earthquakes. Specifically, Interior will require that drilling companies (a) disclose the names of all chemicals contained in fracking fluids, (b) set standards for well construction and wastewater treatment, and (c) request permission to frack with every permit application.What we have here is another example of federal regulators arriving late to a party to which they weren't invited. For more than 40 years, the individual states have had exclusive regulatory oversight of natural gas drilling, and hydraulic fracturing has been used in nearly 1 million wells across the U.S. Careful studies by the EPA and the Ground Water Protection Council haven't revealed a single case of groundwater contamination from shale gas drilling. That's because the fracturing occurs far below the location of drinking water, and the gas wells are encased in steel and concrete to ensure isolation from groundwater. All but 1 percent of the fracturing mixture is made up of water and sand, so the small amount of chemicals and additives is well diluted. And most states already require disclosure of chemicals used in drilling fluids.As for earthquakes, the U.S. Geological Survey recently completed a study that concluded hydraulic fracturing does not cause them. The study did find an increase in "seismic activity" near some well sites but attributes these episodes to injections of well wastewater and not fracking. The study also notes there are more than 140,000 disposal wells in the U.S. with only a handful potentially linked to seismic activity. Importantly, the USGS found that the "earthquakes" were fairly small and rarely caused damage.In practice, these new regulations may not be as draconian as they first appear, though they will impose unnecessary additional costs on drilling companies and likely slow the pace of permitting new wells. But the broader issue is whether public policies and regulations are encouraging or inhibiting greater use of America's abundant domestic energy resources, especially natural gas.Bernard L. Weinstein is associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University's Cox School of Business and a fellow with the George W. Bush Institute.