WASHINGTON – Today Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) reintroduced the bipartisan Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act of 2013 – a bill that Rep. DeGette first introduced in 2008.
The bill would require drillers to obtain permits under the Safe Drinking Water Act before they inject chemical-laced fluids underground as part of the fracking process. The bill would also require drillers to publicly disclose the chemicals they intend to use before fracking occurs and a subsequent list of the chemicals used to frack each well.
“Clean drinking water is not a partisan issue,” said Jason Rano, Environmental Working Group’s director of government affairs. “Growing numbers of Americans have had to contend with the harmful environmental effects of oil and gas fracking as energy companies have rushed into shale and other unconventional geological formations. The FRAC Act would establish an important regulatory safety net by requiring common-sense permits and providing transparency for Americans concerned about the health consequences of reckless drilling.”
During hydraulic fracturing, a driller may inject up to 8 million gallons of water, sand and chemicals under high pressure in a single well. The liquid-chemical mixture is designed to break up underground rock formations to unlock trapped gas and oil. Some of the chemicals, including diesel fuel, can be highly toxic. In 2005, Congress exempted the drilling technology from the Safe Drinking Water Act’s permitting requirements – except for fracking done with diesel. But as EWG found in a 2010 report, drillers use many other petroleum distillates in hydraulic fracturing, such as kerosene and mineral spirits, that are not covered by the act but contain the same toxic chemicals as diesel.
EWG research has found that the Environmental Protection Agency linked fracking to water contamination as early as 1987. Because of the exemptions from the Safe Drinking Water Act and other major federal laws that Congress granted to oil and gas drilling, however, federal regulators have few tools to protect water, air and property. State regulation is also often weak, and thousands of wells go uninspected each year, according to a recent report by Earthworks.
“With drillers continuing to push into populated areas, serious oversight is long overdue for activities that energy companies themselves say are inherently risky,” Rano said. “Representatives DeGette and Gibson deserve credit for their efforts to protect clean water and the health of all Americans.”