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Senator Cardin Paves the Way for Cleaner Water

Today Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced the FRESHER Act, legislation that would close the loophole in the Clean Water Act that endangers water quality near oil and gas operations.

Senator Cardin (D-MD) speaks in front of the White House.

Senator Cardin (D-MD) speaks in front of the Capitol Building.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights/Flickr

Some members of Congress have lost sight of the fact that access to clean water is a basic right that everyone should enjoy. Over the years, loopholes have been created  in such key environmental laws as the Clean Water Act have allowed the oil and gas industry to develop unchecked, putting the health of the American people and the environment at risk.

Today, members of the U.S. Senate  are paving the way to right these wrongs. Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland has introduced the FRESHER Act, legislation that would close the loophole in the Clean Water Act that endangers water quality near oil and gas operations.

The Clean Water Act was introduced in 1972 to protect our health, drinking water and the environment from pollutants being discharged into the nation’s waters. However, in the last few decades, the oil and gas industry has lobbied for and obtained special exemptions that allow for the unregulated expansion of oil and gas development and a free pass to ignore vital health and environmental safeguards.

The FRESHER Act would hold oil and gas companies accountable to the same standards as other industries and require them to obtain stormwater runoff permits for construction and drilling activities. Simply put, the proposed bill would hold the oil and gas industry on par with other potentially harmful industrial activities by ending special exemptions from one of our bedrock environmental laws, the Clean Water Act.

A recently released draft report from the EPA of fracking’s impact on water reaffirms the need for this legislation.  Irresponsible, widespread development by the oil and gas industry has already begun to impact drinking water of many Americans and has put countless more at risk.

The same bill was introduced in the House in March by Reps. Cartwright (D-PA) and Polis (D-CO) as part of the “Frack Pack,” a group of bills that would close several loopholes that allow oil and gas industry exemption from our nation’s bedrock environmental laws.

We’ve been down this road before. The Clean Water Act was enacted because Americans saw the destruction of our waterways and loss of safe drinking water. We pressured our members in Congress until they had no other option other than to act. The oil and gas industry shouldn’t get a pass from one of our nation’s most influential environmental laws. The FRESHER Act would begin to address industry loopholes to necessary environmental laws as the Clean Water Act and provide the millions of people living near oil and gas development sites some peace of mind.

As Earthjustice Associate Legislative Counsel Raul Garcia said in a press release, “It’s time to update our laws to reflect the fact that unregulated fracking puts our communities and children at risk. We thank and applaud Senator Cardin for his efforts to protect our waterways.”

We're the lawyers for the environment, and the law is on our side.