Improve Federal Laws

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Introduced as of 2013

The CLEANER Act : 7/25/2013 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 33 co-sponsors and endorsed by 135 organizations from across the country, aims to eliminate the loophole in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) that currently prevents appropriate treatment of hazardous wastes from oil and natural gas production.  RCRA requires the safe handling, transport and disposal of hazardous wastes.  In the 1980s, however, wastes from oil and gas exploration and production were exempted from RCRA’s safety requirements for toxic waste management, even though these wastes (including fracking fluids and produced waters) contain dangerous substances including volatile organic compounds, acids, lead and other heavy metals, petrochemicals including diesel fuel, and radioactive materials.  As a result, the task of regulating oil and gas wastes has been left to a patchwork of inadequate regulation among states, leading to the widespread mismanagement of these dangerous materials.   Press Release

The FRAC Act (H.R. 1921, S. 1135) closes the loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) that excludes hydraulic fracturing from SDWA’s Underground Injection Control Program (UIC). The UIC program is intended to protect underground sources of drinking water from endangerment, but a 2005 amendment expressly exempted fracking operations from the regulatory requirements of the SDWA/UIC permitting program unless diesel is used in the fracking fluid.  This leaves sources of drinking water in more than 30 oil and gas producing states unprotected by the SDWA, even though hundreds of chemicals—many of them toxic and/or carcinogenic—are potentially used during fracking. The FRAC Act would also require companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in fracking. 

The BREATHE Act (H.R. 1154) closes the loopholes in the Clean Air Act (CAA) that currently allow emissions of significant toxic air pollution from oil and gas exploration and production. Under the CAA, the comprehensive law regulating air pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency sets emissions standards for cars, factories, and other sources of air pollutants.  The oil and gas industry, however, is exempt from the law’s requirement that the emissions of multiple related small sources that are under common ownership be aggregated to determine total emissions.  As a result, closely associated wells and related facilities do not have to meet the same air quality standards for emissions of hazardous air pollution (including volatile organic compounds, smog-forming nitrogen oxides, and carcinogens) that other major sources of these dangerous pollutants must meet. 

The FRESHER Act (H.R. 1175) would close the loophole in the Clean Water Act (CWA) that endangers water quality near oil and gas production activities.  The CWA is the foundational law that protects American rivers, streams, wetlands, and other waterways from pollution. Under the CWA, a permit is required for large-scale, ground-disturbing activities that increase stormwater runoff and the risk of water pollution.  This important permitting requirement, however, has been waived for oil and gas production, even though the runoff from oil and gas well pads and related infrastructure can be contaminated with dangerous pollutants. Such runoff can and has polluted waterways – degrading water quality, and damaging aquatic habitats.