ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell Oil Company met with senators drafting energy reform legislation Thursday to request that their legislation block the federal government from regulating fracking pollution. Climate reform such as the legislation being drafted by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) will spur natural gas development, as the fuel has a much smaller carbon footprint than dirty coal. The industry wants to ensure that health and environmental concerns do not impinge their use of the drilling technology of hydraulic fracturing, known colloquially as “fracking.” The oil companies shared a draft “Sense of the Senate” document with the senators, which opposes Environmental Protection Agency authority:
States with existing oil and gas regulatory programs have the authority to and are best situated to continue regulating hydraulic fracturing processes and procedures.
Fracking is used in most U.S. oil and gas wells and involves pumping a combination of water, sand, and chemicals under high pressure deep into rock formations that hold oil and gas. The process fractures the rock and holds open the fissures to allow oil and gas to flow to the surface. The natural gas industry claims the process is completely safe, and the only reason they don’t want federal oversight is to protect the “trade secrets” of the chemical cocktails they’re using.
Four years ago fracking was exempted from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, following a corrupt report from the Bush-era EPA that found that “there is no risk of contamination of drinking water from fracturing, despite the fact that compounds have been found to contain toxic chemicals like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene.” Since then, citizens near gas drilling operations have begun to find contaminated drinking water and toxic spills. Reports are coming out of companies illegally using diesel fuel when fracking near drinking-water aquifers.
Under new leadership, the EPA is just beginning to clean up its fracking corruption, having announced the initiation of a study of the safety of fracking last week. Several members of Congress, led by Sen. Robert Casey Jr. (D-PA), Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), are working to close the 2005 toxic disclosure loophole with new legislation.
Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman are attempting the herculanean task of drafting climate legislation that can be accepted by both Democrats and Republicans, industry and environmentalists. Although numerous compromises are worth making to reform the disastrous energy status quo, giving free rein for industry to poison Americans is not one of them.