Bills would close frackers' exemptions
HR 1154 has been named the BREATHE Act, which stands for Bringing Reductions to Energy's Airborne Toxic Health Effect.
Polis also is co-sponsoring a related bill, HR 1175, dubbed the FRESHER Act, for Focused Reduction of Effluence and Stormwater runoff through Hydraulic Environmental Regulation, and sponsored by Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa.
Polis' congressional district covers parts of Boulder and Larimer counties, in which the process known as "fracking" has become a heated political issue.
"New technologies have led to the rapid development of hydraulic fracturing in Colorado and Pennsylvania before community members could fully understand the potential health, safety, and quality-of-life implications of drilling in their neighborhood," Polis said in a press statement. "Through the BREATHE Act and the FRESHER Act, we want to make sure that fracking is not exempt from the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act simply because fracking was not prevalent when these laws were initially written. These bills update health and safety protections that have traditionally had strong bipartisan support and ensure gas industry accountability."
Oil and gas operators are exempt from the some of the provisions of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and other environmental laws. According to the press statement, the BREATHE Act would close the oil and gas industry's exemption to the Clean Air Act's aggregation provision, in addition to adding hydrogen sulfide - a chemical associated with nausea, vomiting, headaches and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat - to the Clean Air Act's federal list of hazardous air pollutants.
The FRESHER Act would reverse the oil and gas companies' construction and operations exemption from the Clean Water Act for stormwater runoff permits and mandate a study of the effects of these operations on surface water.
On Election Day in November, 60 percent of Longmont voters approved Measure 100, which banned fracking - as well as the storage and disposal of fracking waste - within the city limits. That vote prompted the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to sue the city. Earlier this month, the Fort Collins City Council voted 5-2 to back Longmont in the suit.
However, Lakewood-based TOP Operating Co. LLC, which does most of the oil and gas drilling in the Wattenberg Field that includes the Longmont area, asked to join the state commission's suit against Longmont. In its proposed complaint, TOP said the city's ban "affects and renders impossible" its plans to drill in Longmont, including wells approved by the city council months before last year's election.
COGA filed the suit in December in Weld County, where municipal and county officials have looked more kindly on fracking. However, 19th Judicial District Judge Daniel Maus on March 8 granted Longmont's request for a change of venue, meaning the case now will be heard in Boulder County.
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