Cartwright pushes tighter oil and gas production regulations
Hazardous wastes produced during the extraction of oil and natural gas would be subject to federal law to the same extent as wastes produced by other industries under a bill introduced this week by U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright.
Laws in Pennsylvania and other states require proper disposal of hazardous wastes, but Mr. Cartwright, D-17, Moosic, said the laws differ widely from state to state.
"Widespread evidence suggests public exposure to these toxins through air, soil and local water sources," he said at a news conference Friday at his congressional office in downtown Scranton. "The simple solution: hold (oil and gas) producers to the same standard other industries have to comply with."
The federal law regulating hazardous waste disposal is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976. Mr. Cartwright said the act was passed before hydraulic fracturing, known commonly as fracking, the process of injecting chemical mixtures into the earth to crack rock and release gas. In 1988, the federal Environmental Protection Agency exempted oil and gas waste from the act most stringent regulations, Mr. Cartwright said.
His bill would change that.
"Regardless of which industry produces these harmful substances as waste, no one wants them in their drinking water," he said. "There's really no reason to exempt oil and gas extraction companies from the law that every other kind of industry in the United States has to comply with."
The wastes include drilling fluids and cuttings, fracking fluids, leftover water, sludge and other wastes.
"This is not an attack on hydraulic fracturing," Mr. Cartwright said. "The natural gas boom in this country is something that everybody recognizes can be a good thing, something that will aid in our quest to reduce our carbon footprint ... and our dependence on foreign energy."
The bill faces an uphill battle in the House, which is controlled by Republicans, many of whom disdain regulation or come from districts where drilling for natural gas and oil is common. None of the 42 bill's co-sponsors is a Republican, and Industry leaders are also likely to fight tougher regulation.
"This is the beginning of a long road," Mr. Cartwright said. "There are powerful forces arrayed against these new (bills)."
Environmental groups praised Mr. Cartwright, but Steve Forde, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, called the congressman's bill a "misguided" effort "in search of problems" that would "undercut the shared goal of more jobs, cleaner air and strengthened national security without adding any environmental benefits."
"Natural gas development is tightly and effectively regulated, and Pennsylvania's modernized framework ensures that shale development is done in way that protects our environment," Mr. Forde said in a statement.