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Cartwright Introduces Legislation to Eliminate Oil and Gas Toxic Waste Loophole

Jul 26, 2013
Press Release

WASHINGTON — Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright introduced the Closing Loopholes and Ending Arbitrary and Needless Evasion of Regulations (CLEANER) Act along with Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-2).  The legislation, introduced with 43 co-sponsors and endorsed by 137 organizations from across the country, aims to eliminate a hazardous waste exemption that was added onto the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) in 1980.  That amendment, which exempted oil and gas companies from having to comply with hazardous waste disposal standards, would be removed under the CLEANER Act, forcing oil, gas and geothermal companies to play by the same rules as other industries.

“Under current federal law, oil and gas companies do not even have to test their waste to see if it is toxic, leaving us with no way of knowing what is being disposed of and how it is being treated.  It is time oil and gas companies comply with existing minimum standards and oversight,” said Cartwright.

“The CLEANER Act will better protect the public and the environment from hazardous waste produced by the oil and gas industry,” Congressman Huffman said.  “We need to close this loophole so that oil and gas companies play by the same rules as everyone else.”

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976 requires the safe disposal of solid waste and hazardous materials.  In 1980, RCRA was amended to exempt waste from the production and development of oil and natural gas (“exploration & production” waste) and geothermal waste. 

“RCRA is meant to protect the public and the environment from hazardous waste.  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 Cartwright.

The task of regulating disposal of these wastes is currently left to states, with mixed results.  Recent articles have shown the extent of the problem and highlight the potentially fatal consequences.

"For too long now, the oil and gas industry has taken advantage of the American public by securing exemptions from many of our nation's commonsense health and environmental safety laws. Closing these loopholes is the only way we can protect the air we breathe and the water drink. Representative Matt Cartwright's legislation to hold toxic pollution from drilling and fracking up to the same standards as other industrial poisons is an important place to start,” said Mike Brune, Executive Director of The Sierra Club.  “It is a courageous move to put the health and well-being of the American people before the financial interests of the nation's wealthiest corporations, and the Sierra Club stands beside Representative Cartwright."

"It's clear to everyone that the 1.3 billion gallons of fracking waste generated in Pennsylvania over the last few years, which is often laced with numerous toxins and cancer-causing chemicals, is hazardous to our health and environment," said Adam Garber, PennEnvironment Field Director. "The CLEANER Act will ensure that companies can no longer spray this toxic fluid on our roads, dump hundreds of thousands of gallons into water treatment facilities, or use it to water cattle. We applaud Congressman Cartwright for trying to make the law follow what we all already know: fracking wastewater is hazardous to our health." 

Cartwright was sworn-in on January 3rd of this year and serves on the House Committee on Natural Resources.


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


Groups Supporting:

Alaska Community Action on Toxics, 350 Bay Area,, Alaska Wilderness League, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, American Rivers, Appalachian Voices, Athens County Fracking Action Network, Berks Gas Truth, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Blue Heron Environmental Network Inc., Breast Cancer Action, Buckeye Forest Council, Buffalo County Defenders, Bus for Progress, Californians for Western Wilderness, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Effective Government, Center for Water Advocacy, Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Citizen Shale, Citizens Climate Lobby, Citizens for a Clean Pompton Lakes, Citizens for a Healthy Community, Citizens for Huerfano County, Citizens for Responsible Oil & Gas, Citizens for Water, Citizens United for Renewable Energy, Clean Air Council, Clean Ocean Action, Clean Water Action, Clean Water Action New Jersey, ClimateMama, Coalition for a Frack-Free Tennessee, Coastal Monmouth Democratic Club, Committee for Clean Water, Air and Earth, Communities United for Rights and Environment, Concerned Chippewa Citizen, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Downwinders at Risk, Earth Day Network, Earth Justice, Earthworks, EcoEquity, EcoFlight, Energy Action Coalition, Environment America, Environmental Action, Environmental Working Group, Fleased, Food & Water Watch, FracDallas, Frack Files of Weld, Frack Free Illinois, Friends of Blackwater, Friends of Strouds Run State Park, Friends of the Au Gres-Rifle Watershed, Friends of the Earth, Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, Grassroots Coalition, Grassroots Environmental Education, Greeley, Colorado Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Greenfaith--Interfaith Partners for the Environment, Harpeth River Watershed Association, High Country Citizens' Alliance, Interfaith Power & Light, Jesus People Against Pollution, League of Conservation Voters, Lehigh Valley Gas Truth, LNG Opposition Team, Los Padres ForestWatch, Marcellus Outreach Butler, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, Mountain Watershed Association and Youghiogheny Riverkeeper, Nature Abounds, Network for Oil and Gas Accountability and Protection, New Jersey Sustainable Collegiate Partners, North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light, North Fork Ranch Landowner's Association, Northern Plains Resource Council, Northjersey Pipeline Walkers, NRDC, NYH2O, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Oil Change International, Our Broomfield, Our Health Our Future Our Longmont, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Penn Environment, PennFuture, Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air, People's Oil & Gas Collaborative – Ohio, Physicians for Social Responsibility – Philadelphia, Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy, Plains Alliance for Clean Air and Water, Potomac Riverkeeper, Powder River Basin Resource Council, Powder River Basin Resource Council, Clark Resource Council, Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens, Prairie Rivers Network, Riverkeeper, Rocky Mountain Recreation Initiative, Rocky Mountain Wild, Safe Climate Campaign, San Juan Citizens Alliance, San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council,, Save Our Town Whitehall, SaveWithSunlight, Shenandoah Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, SLO Clean Water Action, Solaria, SouthEast Communities Against Pollution, Southern Environmental Law Center, Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment, Southwest Ohio No Frack Forum, The Wilderness Society, U.S. Climate Action Network, WATERSPIRIT, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Inc., West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Western Nebraska Resources Council, Western Organization of Resource Councils, Western Slope Conservation Center, WildEarth Guardians, Wilderness Workshop, Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, WV Citizen Action Group. WV Surface Owners' Rights Organization, Youghiogheny Riverkeeper