At the behest of then-Vice President Dick Cheney, an exemption was inserted into a 2005 energy bill — dubbed the “Halliburton loophole” — which stripped the EPA of its power to regulate a natural gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing. This method, called fracking, entails drilling a L-shaped well deep into shale and pumping millions of gallons of water laced with industrial chemicals — chemicals which the energy companies are not legally bound to disclose. The poisonous fluid fractures the shale and releases natural gas deposits for collection.
Due to the documented water contamination issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing, both New York and New Jersey have imposed bans on fracking in their states. But the public health risk doesn’t seem to bother Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and state Republicans. The Ohio House introduced a bill early this month that would create a panel to open any state-owned land for oil and gas exploration to the highest bidder. This week, in an unreleased portion of Kasich’s proposed budget, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources would be given authority to lease 200,000 acres of state park land for oil and gas exploration.
Kasich has fully endorsed drilling in Ohio state parks, saying, “Ohio is not going to walk away from a potential industry.” State Rep. John Adams (R), the House bill’s sponsor, said drilling in state parks can help erase a projected $8 billion budget deficit, and “keep our parks and our lakes up to the standards that the citizens of Ohio want.”
But the evidence proves contrary. Since 2005, large amounts of radioactive material have been found in water supplies near fracking sites, many Pennsylvanians have gotten sick, the tap water in homes near fracking sites have caught on fire, and a home in Celveland, Ohio blew up.
Responding to the threat fracking imposes on public health, Congress has directed the EPA to study how fracking affects drinking water. Reps. Diana Degette (D-CO) and Jared Polis (D-CO) have reintroduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, which would restore the EPA’s authority to regulate fracking — effectively closing the “Halliburton loophole.”