WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), has introduced a bill to remove loopholes that exempt oil and gas companies involved in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) from the Clean Water Act. The FRESHER Act (Focused Reduction of Effluence and Stormwater runoff through Hydraulic-fracturing Environmental Regulation) creates consistent national standards that are needed to protect water resources by requiring oil and gas companies to have a plan to protect streams from runoff and acquire a simple permit.
“Recent advances in technology have helped America become more energy independent than ever before. Our rise in energy independence has unfortunately come with the dangerous deregulation of oil and gas companies. With 15 million Americans living within a 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,” said Senator Cardin. “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. The FRESHER Act is a needed safeguard to ensure that oil and gas companies cannot pollute our water.”
A recent EPA report regarding fracking’s potential impacts on drinking water resources found that fracking has the potential to impact drinking water resources, including the contamination of drinking water wells.
“Natural gas development can help America transition towards a clean, independent energy future, but only if it is done responsibly. The promise of natural gas will be a promise unfulfilled if human health and the environment are not properly safe-guarded,” Senator Cardin added.
The Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, sought to limit the emission of harmful materials into rivers, lakes and streams. The bill’s stated goal is hindered by amendments made to the bill in 1987 and 2005, which created exemptions in the permitting process for growing oil and gas exploration projects. These new amendments allow the oil and gas industry to circumvent the laws other industries follow that protect our waterways despite the fact that the runoff from oil and gas well pads and related infrastructure can be contaminated with dangerous pollutants. Such runoff can and has polluted waterways – degrading water quality, and damaging aquatic habitats. Obtaining a permit is a straight forward process. The FRESHER Act would seek to require oil and gas companies to have a plan to protect streams from runoff and follow the same permitting laws as other industries.
The full text of the FRESHER Act can be found below and downloaded here.
Title: To amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and to direct the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study with respect to stormwater runoff from oil and gas operations, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the “Focused Reduction of Effluence and Stormwater runoff through Hydrofracking Environmental Regulation Act of 2015” or the “FRESHER Act of 2015”.
SEC. 2. STORMWATER RUNOFF FROM OIL, GAS, AND MINING OPERATIONS.
(a) Limitation on Permit Requirement.—Section 402(l) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1342(l)) is amended—
(1) by striking paragraph (2);
(2) by redesignating paragraph (3) as paragraph (2); and
(3) in paragraph (2)(C) (as so redesignated), by striking “402(l)(3)(A)” each place it appears and inserting “subparagraph (A)”.
(b) Definitions.—Section 502 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1362) is amended—
(1) by striking paragraph (24); and
(2) by redesignating paragraphs (25) and (26) as paragraphs (24) and (25), respectively.
(1) In general.—The Secretary of the Interior shall conduct a study of stormwater impacts with respect to any area that the Secretary determines may be contaminated by stormwater runoff associated with oil or gas operations, which shall include an analysis of—
(A) measurable contamination in the area;
(B) ground water resources in the area; and
(C) the susceptibility of aquifers in the area to contamination from stormwater runoff associated with the oil or gas operations.
(2) Report.—Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit to Congress a report on the results of the study conducted under paragraph (1).