A bill was introduced in the House of Representatives that would end the exemption gas and oil company lobbyists wrote into the law that allows them to dump toxic waste without even testing it. Most Americans probably thought oil and gas companies were prohibited them from dumping toxic waste already.
Oil and gas producers, however, have an exemption that other industries do not have so they can pollute the ground and surface water as they please—and they please.
The bill was submitted by Rep Matt Cartwright, Democrat from Pennsylvania, and Rep. Jared Huffman, Democrat from California. It would amend the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act to remove the provision that excludes waste from exploration and development of oil and natural gas from being covered under the law.
”Under current federal law, oil and gas companies do not even have to test their waste to see if it is toxic, leaving us with no way of knowing what is being disposed of and how it is being treated. It is time oil and gas companies comply with existing minimum standards and oversight,” Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), said in a Friday statement.
Fracking opponents want to restrict use of “pools” that hold large amounts of toxic water-waste that could leak and seep chemicals into the ground. They also have concerns about deep waste injection wells, in which oil and gas firms pump drilling waste underground for storage. Those deep wells are suspected as the cause for earthquakes and contaminated drinking water that occasionally has caught fire. Fracking is also causing water shortages.
“Fracking is an inherently risky process, and this bill would ensure that the toxic waste it produces is covered by the landmark law that governs the safe disposal of hazardous materials,” said Alex Taurel, deputy legislative director with the League of Conservation Voters, in a statement. The LCV has been raising questions about the side-effects of fracking which is proliferating around the nation.
Even though 43 Democrats co-sponsored the bill, it is not likely to pass in the Republican controlled House. Oil and gas companies, and their champions like the Koch Brothers, dole out millions of dollars in campaign contributions and perks mostly to Republicans in Congress. A Republican vote against an oil company is as rare as two total eclipses of the sun occurring during the same week.
Republicans are trying to stop the EPA from enforcing and pollution laws against oil and gas companies, not just toxic waste.
This bill, if it passed, would impact fracking operation in Colorado where fracking is booming. It would mean that waste water would have to be tested, the type of pollutants identified, and it would have to meet federal discharge standards before it could be discharged into the ground, rivers, or stored on-site. This would dip into the profits of fracking companies, but it would not put them out of business as they claim.
Fracking companies charge that this bill would end fracking on places like Colorado because it would be so onerous companies would rather fold than comply. It is doubtful that the costs and inconvenience this bill would impose would end the extremely profitable practice of fracking. They could, or course, just clean up and recycle the water avoiding the need for the bill.
Gas and oil companies might be smart to embrace this because if they clean up the water, they will remove most of the opposition they face from the public. They could spend less on TV commercials trying to give themselves a good image. Not being perceived a threat to public house would do more than a commercial to improve the image of fracking.
The bill may not pass now, but eventually the public will demand that something will be done. The question is will that happen before or after a major environmental problem occurs?
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