Clinton advisor attempts to resurrect debunked ‘Halliburton loophole’ fracking talking point

Activists at Democratic convention, who have pushed tired claims of “exemption,” have just grown more and more extreme

Clinton AdvisorWith the Democratic National Convention underway (Ed. note: originally published July 28), a couple of news outlets have reported on comments made by Trevor Houser, Hillary Clinton’s energy adviser, who said at a Politico event yesterday that Clinton would end the so-called “Halliburton loophole” for fracking.

Houser went on to repeat a long debunked claim that has been pushed by activists:

“Congress stripped [the Environmental Protection Agency] of its authorities to protect communities under the Safe Drinking Water Act, something called the ‘Halliburton loophole.’”

As Energy In Depth has pointed out many times, Congress never “stripped” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of that authority – the EPA never had it in the first place.  You don’t have to take our word for it, either.  In fact, it was President Bill Clinton’s EPA Administrator, Carol Browner, who made that clear way back 1995. As she put it,

EPA does not regulate – and does not believe it is legally required to regulate – the hydraulic fracturing of methane gas production wells under its UIC program.”

Browner added:

“EPA’s position is that the fracturing of methane gas production wells is not an injection operation subject to regulation under the Underground Injection Control (UIC) program.” (emphasis added)

Now, even though states have (and have always had) primary regulatory authority over hydraulic fracturing, this doesn’t mean that shale producers not required to comply with a host of federal laws.

A report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in September 2012 shows that oil and gas developers are required to comply with no fewer than eight federal regulations. From that report:

“As with conventional oil and gas development, requirements from eight federal environmental and public health laws apply to unconventional oil and gas development. For example, the Clean Water Act (CWA) regulates discharges of pollutants into surface waters.  Among other things, CWA requires oil and gas well site operators to obtain permits for discharges of produced water – which includes fluids used for hydraulic fracturing, as well as water the occurs naturally in oil- or gas-bearing formations – to surface waters.  In addition, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) governs the management and disposal of hazardous wastes, among other things.”

The report goes on to cite the specific federal environmental and public health laws that govern the development of oil and gas, which include: the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) (for disposal wells); Clean Water Act (CWA); Clean Air Act (CAA); Resources Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA); Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA); Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA); Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA); and Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) – all laws that opponents continually claim are, somehow, “exemptions.”

Meanwhile activists at the convention, who have pushed these tired claims of “exemption,” have just grown more and more extreme, even trying to shut down this same Politico event when Governor Hickenlooper – who has said fracking is “one of our very best and safest extraction techniques” – was on the stage.

While activists continue to try and shut down dialogue it’s important that folks have access to the facts.

Originally published July 28, 2016, at EnergyInDepth

Posted in: Energy Politics

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