NRDC President: Congress Should Enact Public Health and Environment Safeguards Before Any Further Expansion of Natural Gas Fracking Occurs

WASHINGTON (February 12, 2013) – Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told a Senate Committee panel today that Congress should enact public health and environmental safeguards before any further expansion of natural gas fracking occurs because it is exposing Americans to growing risks from air pollution, water pollution and toxic chemicals.

 Testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Beinecke said that many Americans are alarmed by the practice of natural gas fracturing, and states are not capable of providing needed protections; only the federal government can.

“In more than three decades as an environmental advocate, I have never seen a single issue that has frightened, antagonized and activated people across this country like the practice of fracking,” Beinecke testified. “Families are angered and frustrated by their inability to control fracking in their towns, and sometimes on their own property.

“They want to know that their water is safe, their air is clean and their lands and farms are protected. They want to know their children are healthy.”

Beinecke delivered her views in testimony at a Senate hearing titled: “Opportunities and Challenges for Natural Gas.”

She noted that Congress has exempted many fracking activities from protections under the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and waste disposal standards and the National Environmental Policy Act.

“As of now, we lack such safeguards. And those protections we do have are no match for the explosive growth in the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in some three dozen states across this country,” she testified. “NRDC believes we need to put those safeguards in place before any further expansion in the use of fracking.”

Congress should close those loopholes related to fracking, which are currently in effect for similar activities. The responsibility shouldn’t be left only to states, Beinecke said, because they lack the technical capacity or political muscle to enforce safeguards.

She noted that scientific evidence is mounting about the dangers of fracking, including health damage from new air pollution; environmental damage from industrial spills, poorly managed wastewater; and damage to the climate from methane leaks.

Further, Beinecke told the Senate panel that the first priority should be moving to a clean energy future centered on advancing energy efficiency and renewable energy.

“We have learned, as a country, some hard lessons about the consequences of uncontrolled resource extraction. As we confront the emerging challenges of fracking, we must learn from our history, not blindly repeat it,” she said.  “We must get these protections right. We may not get a second chance.”

Beinecke’s written testimony provides more detail about the practice of fracking and the need for federal action: