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U.S. Representatives Introduce Legislation to Protect Drinking Water From Oil & Gas Development

Durango, Colorado, October 17 – Today EARTHWORKS' Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP) announced its strong support for H. R. 7231, a bill to repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing in the Safe Drinking Water Act. The legislation was recently introduced by Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO), Congressman John Salazar (D-CO), and Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY). The Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act. H.R. 7231 repeals this exemption while allowing flexibility and ensuring a federal minimum standard to prohibit endangerment of underground sources of drinking water.

“I believe in the responsible development of our natural gas resources,” said United States Representative John Salazar (D-CO). “However, the exemption for hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Water Drinking Act simply goes too far. Water is our most precious resource in the West and we must ensure it is protected from any possible contamination. This bill will ensure that our aquifers and water supplies have the protection they need,”

Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting fluids into an oil or gas well at extremely high pressure to crack open an underground formation and then prop open the new fractures in order to facilitate the flow of oil and gas out of the well. The fluids often contain highly toxic chemicals, and hydraulic fracturing is suspected of endangering drinking water in many places across the country. In Colorado, citizens and community groups fought for years prior to 2005 to prevent hydraulic fracturing from being exempted under the Safe Drinking Water Act and to ensure proper regulation of hydraulic fracturing. New Yorkers are now faced with massive drilling proposals in the Marcellus Shale and are working to protect water resources like the watershed for New York City in the Catskills.

“It is clear that we need responsible oil and gas drilling in appropriate areas,” said U.S. Representative Diana DeGette, Vice Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. “However, it should not come at the expense of our environment or public health. This common sense legislation will allow energy development to proceed, but require oil companies to abide by the Safe Drinking Water Act like everyone else. Protecting consumers and the environment must be paramount.”

U.S. Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) stated, “It's imperative that we safeguard our drinking water from any chemicals associated with gas and oil drilling. I understand the desire to expand gas and oil development across the country, but we must not rush into drilling without ensuring that our water supplies are protected from toxic chemicals associated with hydraulic fracturing. We must avoid a situation where a generation or less from now, people are shaking their heads and wondering how our government could have been so short-sighted and foolish to exempt hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Congress must pass this bill to reverse the harmful provision in the Bush-administration sponsored Energy Policy Act of 2005 that created the hydraulic fracturing loophole. We have an obligation to protect all Americans from the potential of our precious drinking water becoming severely contaminated.”

The demand for these resources is high, especially as we go into winter. While federal policy should prioritize energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, natural gas plays an important role in our energy portfolio as we transition to a new energy future and away from dirty fossil fuels.

“Producing oil and gas should not and need not come at the expense of clean air, clean water, or human health,” said Wally White, La Plata County Commissioner, Colorado. “We support legislation that provides a minimum federal standard to protect our health and environment without unduly burdening industry or production.”

Gwen Lachelt, director of EARTHWORKS' Oil & Gas Accountability Project stated, “Requiring the oil and gas industry to protect our drinking water is a reasonable standard by which we should develop our energy resources. Non-toxic fracturing alternatives are available and are currently being used offshore, and they can be less expensive and more effective.” Oil and gas production activities such as enhanced recovery and waste disposal are already regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Several other major environmental protection statutes contain loopholes for the oil and gas industry, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

“From California to New York and many places in between, communities near oil and gas operations are calling for basic protections for their health,” said Amy Mall, Senior Policy Analyst, NRDC.

EARTHWORKS' Oil & Gas Accountability Project was founded in 1999 to work with communities to prevent and reduce the impacts caused by oil and gas development. For nearly a decade, the organization has been instrumental in bringing attention to the practice of hydraulic fracturing and developing policy to protect drinking water from toxic fracturing fluids. EARTHWORKS has 80,000 members and offices in Durango, Bozeman and Washington, D.C.

Natural Resources Defense Council contributed to this release.


For more information:
Our Drinking Water at Risk report:
Drilling Down report:

Hydraulic fracturing facts and personal stories:


News release submitted by:
EARTHWORKS Oil & Gas Accountability Project
P.O. Box 1102; 863 1/2 Main Avenue
Durango, Colorado 81302
970-259-3353; Fax: 970-259-7514

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