Congressmen Target Fracking Loopholes to Stem Pollution

WASHINGTON – Growing numbers of Americans have had to contend with the harmful environmental impacts of oil and natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing as energy companies have pushed into shale and other unconventional formations.  Due to glaring loopholes and generous exemptions from federal law that Congress has granted to operators, there are few protective tools available to those whose water and air are threatened by the current drilling boom that features more intensive hydraulic fracturing – the controversial practice also known as fracking.

To remedy this situation, Congressmen Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Matt Cartwright (D-Penn.) introduced on March 14 two bills aimed at protecting water and air imperiled by reckless and unregulated drilling and fracking.

“For too long irresponsible drillers, rushing to cash in on America’s oil and gas boom, have put the health of communities at risk by exploiting huge loopholes and exemptions in federal air and water regulations,” said Jason Rano, Environmental Working Group’s Director of Government Affairs. “We applaud Reps. Polis and Cartwright for their efforts to protect people from the harmful effects of drilling and fracking.”

The first bill, the Bringing Reductions to Energy’s Airborne Toxic Health Effect (BREATHE) Act (H.R. 1154) is co-sponsored by 39 members of the House of Representatives. It would eliminate the exemption drillers currently enjoy under the Clean Air Act, which prevents regulators from evaluating the combined effects on air quality of multiple drilling sites in an area. The legislation would close this “aggregation” loophole.  The bill would also add hydrogen sulfide – a pollutant associated with oil and natural gas production – to the Clean Air Act’s list of hazardous air pollutants.

“It is clear that measuring the environmental impact of just one well gives a grossly inadequate picture of the impact of drilling and fracking in an area or on a community,” Rano said.

The second bill, the Focused Reduction of Effluence and Stormwater runoff through Hydraulic Environmental Regulation (FRESHER) Act (H.R. 1175) is co-sponsored by 44 House colleagues. FRESHER would eliminate the Clean Water Act exemption that allows companies to undertake oil and gas exploration, production, processing, construction or treatment facilities without securing permits for stormwater runoff. The bill would also require the Interior Department to study potential impacts from oil and gas drilling stormwater runoff including potential impacts to underground water supplies.


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