Members of both chambers of Congress introduced legislation today aimed at protecting drinking water from gas drilling pollution.
Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO), Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced the bills.
At issue is a controversial gas drilling technique—known as hydraulic fracturing – in which drillers blast millions of gallons of chemically-treated water into the earth to extract the gas from underground deposits.
The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act would close Bush-era oil and gas industry loopholes in the Safe Drinking Water Act and require disclosure of chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing. If the bill becomes law, the EPA would regain the ability to regulate hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas companies would once again be required under federal law to report the chemicals they are shooting into the ground. In a recent interview, the former Bush EPA official who oversaw the release of a now widely discredited 2004 EPA report that determined hydraulic fracturing was safe for drinking water has now admitted that the exemption the FRAC act seeks to repeal was “broader than it should have been.”
In areas of the Northeast and Midwest undergoing a drilling boom, companies are polluting more water than the region’s wastewater treatment plants can handle. The bill comes on the heels of three back-to-back investigative pieces in the New York Times which shed light both on the enormous quantities of polluted water the oil and gas industry is generating—some of it radioactive—and on the regulatory loopholes that leave drinking water sources woefully unprotected.
The following is a statement from Earthjustice Legislative Associate Jessica Ennis:
“Our country is in the midst of an unprecedented drilling boom. And states in the path of this gas rush have found that they simply aren’t equipped to protect their drinking water supplies. They need backup from the federal government. That’s where these important bills from Congresswoman DeGette, Congressmen Hinchey and Polis and Senators Casey and Schumer come in.
“They are proposing a simple fix to a serious problem: close the loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act and allow this law to get back to work protecting people from chemicals and hazardous waste in their drinking water. Congress needs to pass the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, and soon. The millions of Americans whose health and drinking water supplies are at stake don’t have time to waste.”