Drinking water that catches fire? Radioactive rainwater? You got the Senate to reintroduce the FRAC Act to close the Halliburton Loophole—now help it become law! Make the drilling companies accountable—an Action Alert.
In February, we reported on the terrible environmental and health hazards posed by a method of natural gas extraction employed in deep natural gas well drilling known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
One of our biggest concerns was over what is commonly referred to as the Halliburton Loophole. In 1974, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was passed by Congress to make sure we have clean drinking water which is free from both natural and man-made contaminates. But in 2005, the Bush Energy Bill exempted natural gas drilling from the SDWA as a favor to Halliburton, the world’s second largest oilfield services company. For each frack, 80 to 300 tons of chemicals may be used, though the Bush/Cheney Energy provision exempts companies from disclosing the chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing.
On March 15, S.587, the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act, was introduced in the Senate. It would amend the SDWA to repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing.
This bill doesn’t come a moment too soon. In April there was an explosion and a leak of “thousands and thousands” of gallons of fracking fluid on to farmland and into streams in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. Nearby families were asked to evacuate the area as a precaution. Some did, some didn’t. “Our family’s been on this corner a long time and expect to stay and expect a good-faith effort from Chesapeake [Energy, the company doing the fracking] so that we can live here,” said Ted Tomlinson, a neighbor. His concern is for his drinking water well just several football fields away from the blown out gas well. “The biggest thing is the footprint on the environment. Well, obviously, this is a big footprint.”
And for the first time, a scientific study from Duke University has linked natural gas drilling with flammable water. The study determined a clear pattern of deep drinking water systems in some areas becoming so contaminated with methane that water faucets can actually be lit on fire.
The New York Times recently ran an exposé of the politics and the federal regulatory issues surrounding the natural gas industry. The article says that interviews with Environmental Protection Agency scientists, together with confidential documents obtained by the Times, show long and deep divisions within the agency over whether and how to increase regulation of oil and gas drillers, and over the enforcement of existing laws that some agency officials say are clearly being violated:
EPA scientists working on the agency’s national hydrofracking study have also emphasized that sewage treatment plants are not, technically speaking, treating the waste.
For example, when one agency scientist wrote in a draft plan for the national study that wastewater could be “discharged to surface water after treatment to remove contaminants,” another scientist corrected the statement in the margin.
Using the federal definition of treatment, the second scientist wrote, “we really don’t fully treat the waste.”
On a lighter note, you may enjoy the Fracking Song, created by the New York University Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute’s Studio 20.
Please contact your senators today and ask them to pass the FRAC Act, and close the Halliburton Loophole!
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