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As the United States Senate considers natural gas issues in the 113th Congress, I urge Senators to seek the true impacts this industry has on our public health and our climate. Despite industry rhetoric, and thanks in part to industry obstruction, we still do not know the impacts of the unconventional oil and gas boom.

But we do know that both the state and federal regulatory regimes are not equipped to cope with the boom. Loopholes in federal law and lack of enforcement of state law mean oil and gas companies are largely self-regulating, accountable only to themselves.

We also know that recent scientific studies show that living near oil and gas development exposes residents to toxic air pollution, and is associated with negative health impacts.

And  we now know that oil and gas companies are the second-biggest source of U.S. greenhouse gases, so that continuing on a path of drilling at any cost will have devastating impacts on our planet.

Therefore, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee must examine very closely policies supporting the export of natural gas to foreign countries. Before diving headlong into the natural gas export business, we must weigh the significant threats to public health, air, and water quality posed by the industry’s wastes, damages to landscapes and communities, and the significant greenhouse gas emissions from this industry. 

Instead of fast tracking natural gas exports, the public deserves a transparent and thorough environmental impact statement (EIS).  Only an EIS will document the adverse effects increased domestic drilling to meet foreign demand may create for American citizens living in the path of industry expansion. And an EIS should also require a much-needed reexamination of the economic impacts that will undoubtedly come from the increased natural gas prices such foreign demand will bring.