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

Media Contacts


Scranton — Today, amid mounting evidence that fracking waste is threatening drinking water, Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-17) introduced a bill to eliminate the longstanding loophole that exempts oil and gas waste from our nation’s hazardous waste law. PennEnvironment lauded Rep. Cartwright and the 30 Representatives 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 from Pennsylvania to New Mexico,” said Adam Garber, field director for PennEnvironment. “Representative Cartwright’s common sense notion is that we ought to regulate this fracking wastewater 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.

“It was bad enough when Pennsylvania officials failed to protect our own water from this toxic threat,” explained Congressman Cartwright.  “But when our drillers’ waste starts also causing problems for our neighbors, the time for federal action is overdue.”

PennEnvironment cited the following documented examples of the growing problems posed fracking waste:

  • Rivers and streams:   325,000 people were advised not to drink their tap water after fracking wastewater was discharged from a sewage plant into the Monongahela River.[1] Well blowouts – like the one in Bradford County, PA, that spilled thousands of gallons of toxic wastewater.[2]
  • Groundwater:   in New Mexico, fracking waste has leached into groundwater from waste pits in more than 421 instances.[3]
  • Livestock and wildlife:   documented cases of cattle contaminated by fracking waste and birds and animals attracted to open waste pits.
  • Toxic air pollution:  toxic substances in fracking waste can 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 intentionally dumped more than 250,000 gallons of fracking waste into the Mahoning River, which flows into Pennsylvania.  In addition, deep-well injection of fracking wastewater has been linked to earthquakes in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.  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 mulls new rules for fracking on federal land.

“Fracking is posing a staggering array of threats to our health and environment — especially to our drinking water,” Garber concluded. “With CLEANER, Representative Cartwright has offered a common-sense measure to prevent at least some of that damage.”


[1] Joaquin Sapien, With Natural Gas Drilling Boom, Pennsylvania Faces an Onslaught of Wastewater,” ProPublica (October 4, 2009)

[2] Pennsylvania Department of Environ­mental Protection, DEP Fines Talisman Energy USA for Bradford County Drilling Wastewater Spill, Polluting Nearby Water Resource (news

release), 2 August 2010.

[3] Joanna Prukop, “Setting the Record Straight on the Pit Rule,” Farmington Daily Times (September 17, 2008)   (Former cabinet secretary Joanna Prukop of NM Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department citing state records for “more than 421” documented cases of waste pits contaminating groundwater.)