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Today, Congressman Rahall, the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, unveiled a comprehensive bill to strengthen environmental and safety rules for oil and gas drillers on publicly managed minerals both onshore and offshore.

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, it’s nice to see that lawmakers are appropriately coming to the conclusion that fossil fuel extraction needs to occur in ways that protect communities, clean water and public health.

Chairman Rahall’s bill, an updated version of the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources (CLEAR) Act of 2009, makes many important changes to current laws in an effort to reform the way that publicly managed oil and gas is extracted. One of the many provisions will require oil and gas operators and their subsidiaries to disclose to the public all of the chemicals used during the entire drilling process for each individual oil or gas well.

Transparency is an important element in Chairman Rahall’s bill, and requiring lease holders on public lands to reveal the chemicals they are using is just one part of an important piece of legislation aimed at making sure oil and gas companies do it right for now.

Unfortunately, this bill only applies to public minerals — those managed by the Interior Department or the Department of Agriculture (e.g. Forest Service/Bureau of Land Management).  It doesn’t apply to privately owned land.

So even if the updated CLEAR act passes into law, we’ll still need the FRAC Act — which applies to hydraulic fracturing everywhere — to require public disclosure of drilling toxics, and closes a 2005 loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act.

An eventual transition to a clean energy economy that is not dependent on fossil fuels is the only way to truly protect our oceans and drinking water.

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