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Sen. Cardin Introduces Plan to Close Clean Water Act Exemptions

Exemptions for the oil and gas industry under the Clean Water Act would end under legislation introduced Thursday by U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. Credit: National Park Service.
Exemptions for the oil and gas industry under the Clean Water Act would end under legislation introduced Thursday by U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. Credit: National Park Service.
June 12, 2015

BALTIMORE - Exemptions for the oil and gas industry under the Clean Water Act would end under legislation introduced Thursday by U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. The FRESHER Act would require companies to obtain stormwater runoff permits for construction and drilling.

Raul Garcia, Earthjustice associate legislative counsel, said oil and gas can't continue to receive a free pass - especially as hydrofracking expands along the Marcellus Shale.

"Every other potentially dangerous industry in this country is regulated under the Clean Water Act except for the oil and gas industry," Garcia said, "and that's putting communities and people at risk."

A version of the bill already has been introduced in the U.S. House. Petroleum industry groups have pointed out that the legislation is not needed because it duplicates state regulations in most cases.

Even though hydrofracking affects only a small portion of the state, Garcia said, stormwater runoff impacts nearly everyone as it reaches major rivers, such as the Potomac. Cardin's bill also requires a study of connections between runoff pollution and oil and gas.

"So we keep track of it - the pollution that is from their activities - and we minimize the pollution that goes into the water that we actually use," Garcia said.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a report last week that concluded that oil and gas development has contaminated drinking water in some areas of the country, although the report noted that it is not a widespread problem.

Cardin's Senate bill has yet to be posted online. The House version of the bill is at congress.gov. The EPA study is at cfpub.epa.gov.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD