FRAC Act has lawmakers set to debate hydraulic fracturing
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Federal lawmakers are set to debate the oil and gas industry’s practice of hydraulic fracturing, following introduction of legislation by several Colorado and eastern members of Congress.
Two Colorado representatives, Diana DeGette, D-Denver, and Jared Polis, D-Boulder, joined with two East Coast lawmakers on Tuesday in a move to repeal a Bush administration exemption of the industry from following the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
The group, which included two other Democratic representatives – Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Maurice Hinchey of New York – introduced legislation that would require oil and gas companies to disclose what chemicals are used in the controversial process. The two eastern lawmakers said they signed on to the bill because increased oil and gas exploration is taking place in their states.
Known as the FRAC Act – short for Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act – the measure would be an amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to a message from Kristofer Eisenla of DeGette’s Washington, D.C., office.
“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,” said DeGette, vice chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, in a prepared statement. “Our bill simply closes an unconscionable Bush-Cheney loophole by requiring the oil and gas industry to follow the same rules as everyone else.”
The practice, known as frac’ing, entails the injection of water, sand and other substances under high pressure into wells, to break up the surrounding rock formations and provide access to greater amounts of oil and gas.
Critics of the practice say it has the potential to pollute nearby groundwater with potentially hazardous substances, while industry representatives say there is no evidence of this and that the practice is essential to getting as much of the oil and gas as possible out of the ground.
According to DeGette’s office, the oil and gas industry currently is the only one exempted from the provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Rep. John Salazar, whose district covers much of the Western Slope, reportedly supported a similar piece of legislation introduced during the 2008 Congressional session, but has yet to sign on as a co-sponsor to this one. Efforts to reach his office by press time were not successful.
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It’s that time of year — hikers and mountain bikers must be aware that seasonal closures are taking effect on multiple trails in the area today for the winter for the benefit of wildlife.