Today, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) joined with her colleague Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) to introduce the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (FRAC Act), a bipartisan bill that establishes common sense safeguards to protect groundwater from risks associated with the oil and gas drilling technique "hydraulic fracturing," better known as "fracking." The FRAC Act would require disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking fluids and would remove the oil and gas industry's exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Rep. DeGette has introduced the FRAC Act in each Congress since 2008, but today marks the first time it has been introduced on a bipartisan basis.
"As we recognize the need for energy independence and clean tech innovations to power our nation, natural gas is an important economic driver; but we must ensure the process for extracting natural gas is done safely and responsibly," said Rep. DeGette. "I'm proud to introduce the FRAC Act today for the first time as a bipartisan bill. As fracking operations expand, colleagues on both sides of the aisle increasingly recognize we need common-sense legislation to ensure the economic benefits of natural gas do not come at the expense of the health and safety of families and communities."
Over the past decade, the use of fracking has expanded exponentially due to advances in drilling technology, the need for U.S. energy independence, and a move towards utilizing natural gas while the country incorporates renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydropower. While the nation begins to reap the rewards of natural gas, anecdotal evidence has begun to emerge of residents, homeowners, and workers becoming ill after oil and gas operations began in their communities. In promoting the benefits of this cleaner domestic fuel, it is critical to account for the real issues that exist, and any policy developed to support fracking must ensure the health and safety of our citizens.
To address these concerns in a reasonable way, the FRAC Act would:
Require disclosure of the chemical constituents used in the fracturing process.
Disclosure would be to the state, or to EPA, but only if EPA has primary enforcement responsibility in the state. The disclosures would then be made available to the public online.
Proprietary chemical formulas are protected under our bill -- much like the way Coca-Cola must reveal the ingredients of Coke, but not their secret formula; oil and gas companies would have to reveal the chemicals but not the specific formula.
This bill does include an emergency provision that requires these proprietary chemical formulas to be disclosed to a treating physician, the State, or EPA in emergency situations where the information is needed to provide medical treatment.
Repeal a provision added to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempting the industry from complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), one of our landmark environmental and public health protection statutes.
Most states have primacy over these types of wells, and the intent of this Act is to allow states to ensure that our drinking water is safe. EPA would set the standard, but a state would be able to incorporate hydraulic fracturing into the existing permitting process for each well, and so this would not require any new permitting process.
"The FRAC Act would remove the patchwork of different state regulations that the industry currently has to try and comply with, and would set up a consistent and effective system to safeguard fracking operations. As a member of the Congressional Natural Gas Caucus I believe this legislation would enhance our efforts to promote the responsible development of natural gas," continued DeGette. "Natural gas is an important economic driver for our nation and for Colorado in particular. As we witness America's natural gas boom, a reasonable, common-sense framework of regulations at the federal level can help us protect our health and our environment, without standing in the way of the economic and energy benefits fracking can provide us all."