FRAC act to close oil, gas drilling safety loopholes

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, March 17, 2011

The FRAC Act is making its way through Congress again.

The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, first introduced in 2009 and dropped in the hopper Tuesday (March 15) by Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) and Senator Bob Casey (D- Pa.), would require oil and gas drillers to obtain a permit under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act before they engage in the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing.

“Energy is important to our economy, but so is clean water,” Environmental Working Group Senior Counsel Dusty Horwitt said. “With a new surge in drilling and reports of water contamination associated with oil and gas operations across the nation, it’s more important than ever that companies comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act.”

The FRAC Act would require drillers to disclose public chemicals they intend it use in hydraulic fracturing. Some of these substances, such as diesel fuel, can be extremely toxic.

During hydraulic fracturing operations, a driller might inject up to 8 million gallons of water, sand and chemicals under high pressure into a single well. The liquid-chemical mixture is designed to break up underground rock formations to unlock trapped gas and oil. But critics say it could leach dangerous toxic substances into water sources tapped for public drinking water supplies.

Fracking is largely exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, a landmark 1974 bill aimed at ensuring quality drinking water. Nor are drilling companies generally required to make public the chemicals they use in fracturing operations, even in cases of illnesses that may be associated with polluted air and water near drilling operations.

“The FRAC Act is a simple, common sense way to answer the serious concerns that accompany the rapid growth of drilling across the country,” Polis said. “Our bill restores a basic, national safety net that will ensure transparency within the industry and safeguard our communities.”

EWG has issued several reports about drilling and fracturing, including Drilling Around the Law, an investigation of the gas industry’s use of petroleum distillates containing dangerous toxic chemicals such as benzene, a known human carcinogen.

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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.

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