Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Support H.R. 7231

Support H.R. 7231: To repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing in the Safe Drinking Water Act, and for other purposes.

What is Hydraulic Fracturing:

Hydraulic fracturing is a technique used in drilling for oil and gas. Millions of gallons of fresh water along with sand and chemicals (some of which are toxic) are injected under high pressure miles down the drilling hole to fracture underground formations and prop them open in order to better release oil and gas trapped within. Environmentalists are alarmed about possible contamination of groundwater supplies (to say nothing of all the clean water used up in the process) because of the possibility that newly created or preexisting fractures in the underground formation will reach groundwater sources.

Background:

The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 regulates the injection of fluids underground because of dangers it poses to groundwater sources. But The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has held that hydraulic fracturing does not fall under that regulation because its purpose is extraction of oil and gas and not injection of liquids for storage or disposal.

When reports began to appear in Alabama and elsewhere of changes in drinking water quality after the commencement of the hydraulic fracturing, that position was challenged by The Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation (LEAF) a Southern regional foundation dedicated to protecting the regional environment. LEAF petitioned the EPA to regulate the process; the EPA rejected LEAF's petition, and LEAF appealed.

In 1997, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit (Atlanta) ruled that the EPA's position violated the plain wording of the Safe Drinking Water Act and that hydraulic fracturing should indeed be regulated under the Act. But in 2005, with strong support from the Bush Administration, Congress passed The Energy Policy Act, which reversed the court's ruling and exempted the process from regulation.

H.R.7231:

Three Congresspersons have now introduced H.R.7231, which would reinstate federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing. They are Rep. Diana DeGette and Rep. John Salazar, both of Colorado, and our own Rep. Maurice Hinchey of New York.

The Safe Drinking Water Act rules that "underground injection" endangers drinking water sources, but, as amended by the 2005 Energy Policy Act, excludes hydraulic fracturing from the definition of "underground injection." The relevant section of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(d)(1)) reads as follows:

(d) "Underground injection" defined; underground injection endangerment of drinking water sources For purposes of this part:
(1) Underground injection.- The term "underground injection"-
(A) means the subsurface emplacement of fluids by well injection; and
(B) excludes-
(i) the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage; and
(ii) the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities.


The full text of H.R. 7231 (below) amends the above section as follows:

SECTION 1. REGULATION OF HYDRAULIC FRACTURING.

Section 1421(d)(1) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(d)(1)) is amended by striking subparagraph (B) and inserting:

'(B) includes the underground injection of fluids or propping agents pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities; but

'(C) excludes the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage.'.

To support H.R. 7231:

Senator Schumer, (D - NY) 313 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING
WASHINGTON DC 20510
(202) 224-6542 or by Web Form:

Senator Clinton, (D - NY) 476 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING
WASHINGTON DC 20510
(202) 224-4451 or by Web Form:

Your representative via congressional switchboard: 800-828-0498 or by email:

Links:

Hydraulic Fracturing

The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974

LEAF

H.R.7231

Image of frac pit from Earthworks

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