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DeGette, Polis train legislative spotlight on chemicals used in gas drilling 

DeGette, Polis train legislative spotlight on chemicals used in gas drilling

By David O. Williams

June 10, 2009 —  Using some rather pointed language aimed at Bush administration energy policies in general and former Vice President Dick Cheney in particular, Colorado Rep.’s Diana DeGette, D-Denver, and Jared Polis, D-Boulder, Tuesday introduced the FRAC Act aimed at closing a natural-gas drilling loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Calling a 2005 exemption for a process called hydraulic fracturing an “unconscionable Bush-Cheney loophole,” DeGette said the companion House and Senate versions of the Fracking Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (FRAC Act) will require oil and gas companies to disclose chemicals used in the “fracking” process, just like every other industry.

Fracking, short for fracturing, is a common industry process whereby high-pressure water and undisclosed (for proprietary reasons) chemicals are injected into natural gas wells to force open rock formations and allow the gas to flow to the surface more easily.

Polis, the freshman congressman from Colorado’s 2nd District (which includes the Vail Valley), said in a release that innocent people are being sickened by chemicals contaminating groundwater as a result of the fracking process. He called the Safe Drinking Water Act waiver an exemption “Dick Cheney snuck in to our nation’s energy policy.”

House co-sponsor Maurice Hinchey, D-New York, called it the “Haliburton loophole,” and Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., signed on as Senate sponsor to protect “drinking water wells used by 3 million Pennsylvanians.”

Pro-industry forces have been mounting a massive counter-campaign, with Energy In Depth Monday sending out a release accusing DeGette of ignoring science and praising 3rd District Congressman John Salazar for waivering on the bill.

“Despite the EPA reports from the Clinton and Bush administration, and even though there have been no documented cases of fracking contaminating drinking water, a DeGette spokeswoman said legislation is needed because there is anecdotal evidence of people becoming sick as a result of fracking,” the release read.

DeGette last week said it’s difficult to document contamination cases when the chemicals being used are not disclosed to the public and to health care providers.

Check out a more in-depth story on the process in our Real Biz section.



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