Environmental Protection

Lautenberg Supports Natural Gas Fracking Bill

Both Senate and House lawmakers have offered versions of the legislation that was introduced in 2009.

U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) has joined Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) in introducing legislation, S.587, to establish basic health protections that must be met when gas companies use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract underground natural gas.

The large number of gas drilling operations in Pennsylvania’s Delaware River Valley could threaten the source of drinking water for millions of New Jersey residents.

“There have been too many reports of contamination by fracking operations to let the practice continue without better oversight,” stated Lautenberg. “When it comes to our drinking water, safety must be the top priority. People have a right to know if chemicals are being injected into the ground near their homes and potentially ending up in the water supply. This bill will ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency has the tools to assess the risks of fracking and require appropriate protections so that drinking water in New Jersey and other states is safe.”

Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) sponsored the House version of the bill (H.R. 1084) with 31 cosponsors.

The “Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act,” introduced in the Senate on March 15, would:

  • amend the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) definition of “underground injection” to include the underground injection of fluids used for hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil and gas production activities; and
  • require public disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracturing process.

The fracking process involves injecting millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals into underground rock formations to blast them open and release natural gas. Fracking chemicals themselves can be hazardous, and the process can release naturally occurring hazardous substances such as arsenic and mercury as well as other heavy metals and radioactive materials from underground. The drilling wastewater, which has been found to contain radioactive substances, is often released into rivers that supply drinking water.

Similar legislation was introduced in 2009. According to Earthworks, the practice of fracking has expanded to 34 states since then.

“Energy development doesn’t have to threaten our drinking water and our communities’ health,” said John Fenton, a rancher from Pavillion, Wyo., where the U.S. EPA has warned some residents to stop drinking water from wells contaminated with arsenic and other chemicals associated with drilling and fracking. “We just want the oil and gas industry to follow the rules like everyone else,” said Fenton, a board member of the Powder River Basin Resource Council.

“How can we allow drillers to use hundreds of thousands of gallons of fluids with cancer-causing chemicals near our homes and schools without even telling us what they’re using?” asked Gwen Lachelt, director for Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project, which is working nationwide in communities impacted by drilling. “The public deserves to know what chemicals are used so they can protect their families and industry can be held accountable when problems occur. Without the FRAC Act, drillers will continue to get a free ride.”

Source: Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Earthworks

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