There have been many claims that the dangers of fracking have been overstated. Much of this debate has been confusing to the average citizen. A new study published in Scientific American helps explain how the confusion came about and why it continues. The study’s authors analyzed 194,000 inspection records of “Class 2” wells, also called “injection” wells, which are used to dispose of fracking waste. They also provide a brief history of the regulations guiding these inspections.
A lack of adequate oversight for Class 2 wells was written into successive legislative acts. This was a tale of two political parties, who played their parts counter to type. The original Safe Drinking Water Act was passed in 1974, during the Nixon/Ford era of Republican presidents. In 1980, Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, a liberal, sponsored legislation that allowed the oil and gas industry to bypass provisions of the Safe Water Act by choosing to be regulated by state oil and gas boards that were more lax. The EPA then attempted to bar underground dumping (injection wells) unless companies proved beforehand that their actions would not be a health threat. In response, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, a Democrat, led the fight against the EPA’s hazardous waste regulation. Congress redefined any waste that resulted from oil and gas drilling as “non-hazardous.” Voila. Injection wells became safe. From then on, benzene from the fertilizer industry was a hazardous threat to health and water supplies, but the same chemical in the oil and gas drilling process was not hazardous! This is why so many reports on injection wells say that nothing hazardous was injected into the well.
Had enough of legislative double talk? Vote yes on Ballot Question 300 to ban fracking in Longmont. Our health and our future depend on it.