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Government Must Be Given Authority to Protect Public From Fracking Hazards

July 13, 2011  

Government Must Be Given Authority to Protect Public From Fracking Hazards

Public Citizen Urges Corporate-Friendly Loopholes to Be Closed

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Corporate-friendly loopholes must be closed and federal agencies given the authority to protect people from contaminated drinking water caused by hydrofracking, Public Citizen will tell the Department of Energy today.

In comments submitted to the agency’s natural gas subcommittee, Public Citizen outlines the steps needed to properly oversee the process known as fracking, in which water and carcinogenic chemicals are injected into the ground to force out natural gas. In some areas where fracking has occurred, particularly Pennsylvania, water supplies have been contaminated.

However, obstacles exist for agencies trying to protecting people from the harmful effects of fracking. Companies aren’t required to tell the public or even the government what chemicals they use. For instance, in what is commonly known as the Halliburton loophole (named after the powerful company with ties to then-Vice President Dick Cheney) inserted into the Energy Policy Act of 2005, hydraulic fracturing was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“Oil and gas lobbyists have worked hard behind the scenes to ensure that agencies tasked with protecting the public are hamstrung,” said Tyson Slocum, director for Public Citizen’s Energy Program. “We have agencies that are supposed to make sure drinking water is clean in the bizarre position of not knowing what chemicals these companies are injecting into the earth and not even being able to ask. This must change.”

The Natural Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board will recommend improvements to the environmental safety of fracking. Its report will be released in early August. To that end, Public Citizen makes more than a dozen recommendations, including that:

• Congress repeal the exemptions to major provisions of federal environmental laws that were carved out as favors to the oil and gas industry;
• The Environmental Protection Agency assess the environmental and health impacts of chemicals used in fracking and regulate them or prohibit them accordingly; and
• Drilling companies be required to disclose the amount of each chemical used at each well site, and the information be made available to the public.
“I was born and raised in upstate New York, in the beautiful Hudson River Valley near the Catskill Mountain Range, and currently live in the Bronx, New York, as a student,” said Scott McDonald, a senior at Fordham University and intern with Public Citizen who will speak to the subcommittee today. “Both of the communities that I call home are likely to be largely affected by any findings or decisions made by the committee. It is clear that it is not possible to adequately regulate the process in order to ensure public safety and protection of the environment while operating within the current federal legislative structure.”

Public Citizen’s comments are available at https://www.citizen.org/fracking-recommendations-doe.

Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org