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Bill Would Protect Drinking Water From Toxic Chemicals

Bill seeks to close "Halliburton loophole," requires oil and gas companies to follow the Safe Drinking Water Act
June 9, 2009
Washington, DC —

A bill introduced today by Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO), Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) and Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) would protect drinking water from toxic chemicals often used during oil and gas drilling. A companion bill also was introduced today in the Senate by Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY).


The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act would close a loophole that has exempted oil and gas companies from complying with critical requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act since 2005, after the oil and gas industry successfully lobbied for the exemption. It remains the only industry unregulated by a provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act which monitors underground injections near drinking water sources.


While drilling for oil and gas, companies often times inject millions of gallons of chemically-treated water into underground rock deposits to force the oil and gas to the surface. The technique, known as hydraulic fracturing (or hydrofracking) is used in nine out of 10 oil and gas wells in the United States and is suspected of endangering drinking water supplies throughout the country.


The following statement is from Sean Babington, legislative associate for Earthjustice:


"We applaud Congresswoman DeGette and Congressmen Polis and Hinchey, and Senators Casey and Schumer for introducing this important legislation. This is a vital step in protecting public health, which was given a backseat to oil and gas industry profits after big oil received an exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act in the 2005 Energy Bill. Although many deficiencies remain from the 2005 bill, we're pleased the so-called 'Halliburton loophole' may now be closed.


"We shouldn't put oil and gas companies' profits over the protection of our drinking water. All other major industries must comply with provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Oil and gas companies should not be the exception. Nothing is more important to a family than being able to trust that clean drinking water is coming out of their faucet. This important legislation, if enacted, would give millions of Americans those critical protections. This bill is a flexible, common sense proposal that restores balance to an energy policy that was tilted heavily in favor special interests for the past eight years."


Read the House version of the bill (PDF)


Read the Senate version of the bill (PDF)

Contacts

Raviya Ismail, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 237