Rep. Cartwright’s CLEANER Bill a Critical Step to Protect Drinking Water from Toxic Fracking Waste

Media Contacts
John Rumpler

Clean Water Director and Senior Attorney, Environment America

Environment America

Washington, D.C.—Today, amid mounting evidence that fracking waste is threatening drinking water, Rep. Matt Cartwright (Pa.) introduced a bill to eliminate the longstanding loophole that exempts oil and gas waste from our nation’s hazardous waste law. Environment America lauded Rep. Cartwright and the 33 congressmen who joined him as co-sponsors of the CLEANER bill.

“Laced with cancer-causing and even radioactive materials, toxic fracking waste has contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico,” said John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment America. “To protect our water and our health, the least we can do is start treating this fracking waste like the hazardous waste that it is.”
In the epicenter of the fracking boom, Pennsylvania has generated more than a billion gallons of fracking waste—causing pollution and health problems locally, and in surrounding states where drillers have exported a significant volume of the waste for disposal.

“Toxins pose health and environmental risks no matter what industry produces them. It’s time to hold oil and natural gas producers to the same standards that other industries have complied with for over 30 years,” said Rep. Cartwright.

Environment America cited the following documented examples of the growing problems posed by fracking waste:

o Rivers and streams: several instances of documented water contamination – from well blowouts, treatment plant discharges, and other pathways – are documented in PennEnvironment’s In the Shadow of the Marcellus Boom report at pages 15-23.
o Groundwater: In New Mexico, state officials have confirmed that fracking waste has leached into groundwater from waste pits in more than 421 instances.
o Livestock and wildlife: There have been documented cases of cattle contaminated by fracking waste and birds and animals attracted to open waste pits.
o Toxic air pollution: fracking waste contains toxic substances that volatize into the air, putting nearby residents’ health at risk.

Moreover, as the fracking boom generates more and more waste, lax regulations have led to further disposal risks. In Ohio, a drilling operator has intentionally dumped more than 250,000 gallons of fracking waste into the Mahoning River since last September. In addition, deep-well injection of fracking wastewater has been linked to earthquakes in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Fracking wastewater has been applied as de-icer on roads, and in some Western states, it has even been applied to farmland and used to water livestock.
The bill’s introduction comes as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) mulls new rules for fracking on federal land. The proposed BLM rule does not heed recommendations to ban waste pits, much less to require drillers to handle their fracking wastewater as hazardous waste.

On the state level, Environment America’s affiliates have backed measures to restrict or ban the processing of fracking wastewater in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Ohio. On August 7, Environment America expects to release a report calculating the amount of toxic fracking waste generated in states across the country.
“Fracking is posing a staggering array of threats to our health and environment—especially to our drinking water,” Rumpler concluded. “With CLEANER, Representative Cartwright has offered a commonsense measure to prevent at least some of that damage.”

Original Cosponsors (43):
Earl Blumenauer, Michael Capuano, Yvette Clark, Steve Cohen, Gerald Connolly, Elijah Cummings, Peter DeFazio, Ted Deutch, Anna Eshoo, Sam Farr, Alan Grayson, Raul Grijalva, Alcee Hastings, Jared Huffman, Steve Israel, William Keating, James Langevin, John Larson, Barbara Lee, Zoe Lofgren, Alan Lowenthal, Carolyn Maloney, James Moran, Jerrold Nadler, Grace Napolitano, Richard Nolan, Eleanor Norton, Donald Payne, Jr., Mark Pocan, Jared Polis, Mike Quigley, Charles Rangel, John Sarbanes, Janice Schakowsky, Allyson Schwartz, Carol Shea-Porter, Brad Sherman, Louise Slaughter, Adam Smith, Mark Takano, Paul Tonko, Chris Van Hollen, Juan Vargas.