EARTHblog » Aaron Mintzes
June 27, 2012
In 2005, the newly re-elected Bush/Cheney Administration settled in to a second term eager to drastically reshape our nation’s energy policy. Vice President Cheney held a series of closed-door meetings with energy companies, forging a direction so favorable to drillers that the exemptions from our bedrock environmental laws crafted therein became known as the Halliburton loopholes. One of those exemptions (there are a total of seven) declared that the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) would not apply to hydraulic fracturing. Originally passed by Congress in 1974, the SDWA is the main federal law that ensures the quality of Americans' drinking water, especially underground sources of drinking water.
June 7, 2012
Yesterday, I attended a hearing of the House Energy and Power subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee entitled “EPA Enforcement Priorities and Practices”. It really should have been called “The Crucifixion of Al Armendariz”. Except, Dr. Al wisely chose not to attend. This hearing has followed a basic narrative pushed by the House Majority best articulated by the subcommittee’s ranking member Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL). Instead of calling it the Environmental Protection Agency, we should rename it the Every Problem in America agency. That’s because the House Majority loves to hold hearings where they blame the lagging job market, gas prices, and over dependence on foreign energy on the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and so on. The argument presumably goes: but for those pesky environmental protections, we’d have full employment and free gasoline.
Al Armendariz was, until very recently, the head of EPA Region 6 that includes major energy producing states like Texas and Oklahoma. He’s not a politician- more like a scientist, college professor type. But Dr. Al ruffled some feathers on December 7, 2010, when Region 6 issued an emergency order against Range Resources amid reports of possible water contamination from Range’s fracking operations. In March of this year, EPA and Range settled the case agreeing to lift the emergency order and continue with a testing and monitoring program. But by this point, Range, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Texas Railroad Commission (TX RRC) were furious that the federal government had so impugned Texas sovereignty. Their message: Don’t mess with Texas.