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Lawless Drilling Boom

Monday, March 30, 2009

Special to Enviroblog by Don Carr, EWG Press Secretary

Oil and gas drillers in the American West are exempt from most environmental safeguards.

You could imagine that companies engaging in hydraulic fracturing, the process by which highly toxic chemical are injected into the ground to force out natural gas, would be regulated by the Clean Water Act, at least, since ground water sources are sometimes near drilling sites.

But in fact, oil and gas drilling are exempt from the landmark 1972 statute

You might think that if a person came into contact with extremely hazardous drilling chemicals, and the person's life was at stake, emergency response personnel would know what to do.

That's not the case either.

In Colorado, a nurse nearly died after she touched the chemical-soaked clothing of a sick drilling worker. The drilling company refused to tell her physician exactly what she had encountered.

The exact composition of hydraulic fracturing, or fracing, chemicals is deemed proprietary - a trade scfret. And yet these chemicals, whose composition the public has no right to know, are pumped deep into the ground near precious water sources.

To make matters worse, the number of oil and gas wells drilled across the West has exploded by 120,000 since 2000. A recent EWG report, Free Pass for Oil and Gas, details the impact oil and gas drilling has had across the American West.

New Mexico and Colorado have passed tough new standards designed to minimize pollution from oil and gas drilling, but industry is attempting to roll back these protections. State standards often do not close the loopholes under federal law.

It's time the federal governement restored basic safeguards for people who live and work near oil and gas drilling.

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