Congressman Matt Cartwright

Representing the 17th District of Pennsylvania
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Cartwright Sends Letter to PA Acting DEP Secretary Regarding Fracking

Oct 29, 2014
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright sent a letter to Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA-DEP) Dana Aunkst.  The letter is a significant first step in a comprehensive nationwide investigation Cartwright is leading in his role as Ranking Member of the Economic Growth, Job Creation, and Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

 The letter requests information about Pennsylvania’s regulatory process for monitoring the handling and disposal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) waste. 

Cartwright writes, “As you know, fracking wastes are categorized as "special wastes" and are exempt from federal hazardous waste regulations under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  As a result, fracking wastes are regulated as non-hazardous wastes by state governments under the less stringent RCRA Subtitle D solid waste regulations.  I am writing to inquire about your state’s reporting requirements for fracking operators, fracking waste transporters and disposal site operators.” 

The letter goes on to ask several detailed questions about the waste disposal practices and oversight capabilities in Pennsylvania.

The state’s oversight of the process has come under scrutiny after the release of PA Auditor General Eugene Depasquale’s audit of the PA-DEP’s performance in monitoring potential impacts to water quality from fracking. 

The audit concluded that Pennsylvania’s current system for oversight of fracking waste “is not an effective monitoring tool” and “it is not proactive in discouraging improper, even illegal, disposal of waste.”

Dan Raichel, Staff Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council added, “No matter how the Pennsylvania government slices it—there’s no denying that fracking waste is toxic and must be kept away from our drinking water.  In order to keep residents safe, it is critical that we first know how companies are disposing of it, and where it ends up.  It’s time for Pennsylvania to come clean about how it's managing this dangerous waste.”

"For too long fracking companies have been able to shield the public from knowing the volume, contents, and disposal methods of waste produced by their operations because of an exemption from our nation's hazardous waste law. This investigation is a key step to shed light on this practice and to inform Pennsylvanians about how their state is handling millions of gallons of chemically-treated water. It also highlights the importance of repealing all of the loopholes the oil and gas industry exploits in our nation's environmental laws," said Jessica Ennis, senior legislative representative with Earthjustice.