Bill would regulate oil, gas fracturing

Two Colorado congressional members Tuesday teamed up in introducing legislation for federal regulation of the oil and gas industry practice of hydraulic fracturing.

Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette and Jared Polis joined two Eastern lawmakers in offering bills to repeal the industry’s exemption from the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act and require companies to disclose chemicals used in fracturing.

“When it comes to protecting the public’s health, it’s not unreasonable to require these companies to disclose the chemicals they are using in our communities — especially near our water sources,” DeGette, vice chair of the House Committee on Energy and
Commerce, said in a news release. “Our bill simply closes an unconscionable
Bush-Cheney loophole by requiring the oil and gas industry to follow the same rules as everyone else.”

Hydraulic fracturing involves the injection of water, sand and other substances under high pressure into wells to crack open underground formations and produce gas and oil.

Industry advocates say the practice already is adequately regulated by states. They contend it’s crucial to oil and gas development in places such as western Colorado’s Piceance Basin and elsewhere across the country, and say there have been no documented cases of the practice contaminating drinking water.

Critics say there is anecdotal evidence of such contamination, including in western Colorado, and that disclosure of fracturing constituents could help to prove contamination by substances that include benzene, a carcinogen.

Democrat John Salazar,  whose House district includes western Colorado, supported past legislation to regulate hydraulic fracturing but has not decided whether to back the latest legislation.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., joined in introducing the new legislation. Growth in natural gas development and the use of hydraulic fracturing has prompted concerns over drinking water safety in those states.

In a news release Tuesday, the new industry advocacy group Energy In Depth said it’s wrong to say hydraulic fracturing was exempted from the Safe Water Drinking Act because regulation of the practice never was contemplated when that law was passed or during later debates over amendments to it.


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