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Government must have authority to protect public from fracking

Tyson Slocum It’s unbelievable but true: The federal government can’t require companies to reveal what chemicals they are pumping into the ground (and sometimes the groundwater) when engaging in fracking.

Why? Corporate power of course. Powerful industry lobbyists managed to get fracking exempted from a host of laws that enable government agencies to enforce clean water standards and thereby keep drinking water safe. Fracking is a process in which water and carcinogenic chemicals are injected into the ground to force out natural gas.

The result is that in some communities, groundwater is contaminated (to the point of being flammable) and people have no way to find out what carcinogens they are injesting.

Today, Public Citizen made a raft of recommendations to the Department of Energy, which is examining fracking hazards. The bottom line is that it probably can’t be done safely. But right now, there are many loopholes that must be addressed.

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.

Here are a few things that need to be done:

•    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.

You can read all our recommendations here.

Let’s hope the Department of Energy listens. Want to weigh in? Please do. We need your voice.  Tell your representative to support efforts to remove the exemption to the Safe Drinking Water Act for fracking and call for the disclosure and monitoring of the chemicals used in the process.