Bills Introduced To Close Two (Of Many) Loopholes In Environmental Laws Benefitting Oil And Gas Companies

Congressmen Jared Polis (D-CO) and Matt Cartwright (D-PA) yesterday introduced two bills that would repeal exemptions for oil and gas companies under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.  As a press release from the members noted, the bills were introduced:

… in order to ensure that the hydraulic fracking industry follows the same rules that other industries do in preserving our natural resources. This legislation is focused on ensuring the safety and the health of the communities where the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process is already taking place.

Polis’ bill, the “Bringing Reductions to Energy’s Airborne Toxic Health Effect (BREATHE) Act” (H.R. 1154) is based on the premise that oil and gas wells and their associated infrastructure can cause significant air pollution.  The bill would require companies to cumulatively account for air pollution from all of their wells in one area by requiring aggregate permits, rather than individual permits for each well.  The bill also adds hydrogen sulfide to the list of hazardous air pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act.

Cartwright’s bill, the “Focused Reduction of Effluence and Stormwater Runoff Through Hydraulic Environmental Regulation (FRESHER) Act” (H.R. 1175), would require stormwater runoff permits for oil and gas construction and operations to protect surface water resources.  This is essential because rain causes runoff from fracking sites that can contain sediment and other pollutants which end up in nearby waters.  It would also mandate a study on the effects of oil and gas operations on surface water.

In additions to these exemptions from parts of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, the oil and gas industry enjoys loopholes in a handful of other laws including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Superfund Act, the Community Right to Know Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.

At the same time oil and gas companies benefit from loopholes in laws designed to protect public health and the environment, they are making record profits.  Last year, the largest five oil companies–– BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell– made $118 billion in profits.  They also receive $2.4 billion in tax breaks every year, effectively making Americans pay twice for gasoline, both at the pump and through the U.S. Treasury.  Unfortunately, the House of Representatives seems set to continue this preferential treatment of the oil and gas industry.  Just this week, the House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget preserves tax breaks for oil companies while calling for the sell-off of public lands.  More benefits for big corporations, paid for by the middle class.

Jessica is the Manager of Research and Outreach for the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.


5 Responses to Bills Introduced To Close Two (Of Many) Loopholes In Environmental Laws Benefitting Oil And Gas Companies

  1. Sasparilla says:

    These sound like nice bills, but this was in the Republican controlled House of Representatives.

    So there’s not a snowballs chance in wherever the legislation will actually be ever be taken up for a vote (lets alone passed), right?

  2. Mark Shapiro says:

    Reducing externalities is good, simple, solid economics.


  3. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Not if you can foist the cost of these externalities onto the enemy-other people.

  4. Brian says:

    For states that do not require stormwater management permits, this is truly needed. Looking at the cumulative or combined emissions is more questionable, we do not conduct this analysis for any other activity or industry. The hydraulic fracturing process is regulated by the EPA under the UIC program if the process uses diesel and similar products, if the process is being used on coal bed methane in a specific state, or for deep well injection. I think UIC needs to expand to all coal-bed methane extraction and hydraulic fracturing in reservoirs located just below freshwater aquifers. In PA – the level of protection of waters should include both the freshwater and potential freshwater aquifer (ie., water with a TDS equal to or less than 10,000 mg/L.

  5. Charles Zeller says:

    Indeed Mulga. Good macroeconomics is, in this case, bad microeconomics.