Bill targets 'loopholes' for fracking pollution

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Sen. Ben CardinBen CardinSanders, Dem senators press Obama to halt ND pipeline Dems to McConnell: Pass 'clean' extension of Iran sanctions Top Foreign Relations Dem: US needs to 'revisit' approach to Russia MORE (D-Md.) has introduced a bill to close what he characterized as loopholes for pollution that the oil and natural gas industry uses for hydraulic fracturing.

The changes enacted in 1987 and 2005 create exemptions for fracking from various provisions of the Clean Water Act, a controversial oil and gas extraction process that involves pumping fluid at high pressure into wells.

Cardin’s bill, the Focused Reduction of Effluence and Stormwater runoff through Hydraulic-fracturing Environmental Regulation (Fresher) Act, would roll back the exemptions.

“With 15 million Americans living within 1 mile ... of a well that has been drilled in the last 15 years, the loopholes oil and gas companies enjoy threaten our environment and public health,” Cardin, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement.

“Oil and gas companies that already enjoy tax breaks should be required to follow the same laws to protect our water and public health as other industries,” he said. “The Fresher Act is a needed safeguard to ensure that oil and gas companies cannot pollute our water.”

Cardin said a recent Environmental Protection Agency report on fracking backs up the case for his bill because it found some circumstances in which the practice can pollute drinking water.

Environmentalists have criticized the fracking exemptions for years, saying that they enable water pollution. The 2005 exemptions have been labeled by green as the “Halliburton loophole,” since then-Vice President Dick Cheney was previously the head of oilfield services company Halliburton Co.

“The loopholes created ten years ago to protect Halliburton and other frackers have been a disaster for our water, our air, and our communities,” Rachel Richardson, director of Environment America’s Stop Drilling Program, said in a statement. “It’s well past time for the oil and gas industry to be held accountable to our core environmental laws.”

“Sen. Cardin’s bill restores one of the important environmental protections that a Republican Congress rolled back 10 years ago,” said Kate DeAngelis, a climate and energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

The oil and gas industry has taken issue with how green groups frame the issue, saying the provisions are not loopholes and the industry is subject to strict federal and state regulations that stop pollution.

“As regulators and experts have stated time and again, there is no evidence that hydraulic fracturing poses a credible risk of contaminating groundwater,” industry group Energy In Depth recently wrote.