April 07, 2017

Van Hollen Introduces Legislation to Close Environmental Loophole for Natural Gas Drillers

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) joined Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and nine Democratic Senators to introduce the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act, which would increase environmental protections for communities where natural gas drilling takes place. Specifically, the bill would require drillers to disclose the chemicals that go into the ground during the hydraulic fracturing process and close a 2005 loophole that prevents the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from conducting rigorous oversight of hydraulic fracturing which occurs during natural gas drilling. Fracking is prohibited in Maryland but permitted in other areas of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

"The health of the Chesapeake Bay depends on clean water flowing in from the entire watershed -- including the areas outside of Maryland where fracking occurs," said Senator Van Hollen. "No company should be exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act - especially those who pump potentially dangerous chemicals into the ground. Communities in fracking states - and those downstream - have a right to know what is in fracking fluid, and this legislation would close an egregious loophole that puts communities, first responders, and the health of the Chesapeake Bay at risk."

"Natural gas extraction remains an important source of power for our country," said Senator Casey. "It's imperative, however, that we put in place commonsense checks to protect the communities directly impacted by this extraction. The Pennsylvania constitution calls on us to commit to protecting our environment. This legislation is vital step in ensuring the environmental safety of Pennsylvania communities."

The FRAC Act will require that the natural gas industry provide complete disclosure of the chemical composition of hydraulic fracturing materials prior to and after hydraulic fracturing. This information will then be made public on a website. Disclosure will ensure that if drinking water supplies, surface waters, or human health are compromised, the public and first responders will be properly informed. Further, the FRAC Act will require that hydraulic fracturing be once again included under the Safe Drinking Water Act, simply ensuring that a consistent set of requirements will be applied to the development of our resources.

The legislation's original cosponsors are, Senators: Whitehouse (D-RI), Hirono (D-HI), Franken (D-MN), Schumer (D-NY), Menendez (D-NJ), Reed (D-RI), Merkley (D-OR), Durbin (D-IL), and Feinstein (D-CA).