We live in a fracked up country, but thanks to Dick Cheney, there’s pretty much nothing we can do about it.
Over the past decade, the extraction of natural gas through a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has emerged as one of the fossil fuel industry’s biggest money makers.
In fact, according to Bloomberg, fracking was the biggest reason American oil output hit a 25-year high in 2013.
The boom in fracking is, quite literally, hitting close to home.
A recent Wall Street Journal report looked at 11 of the country’s biggest energy-producing states and found that - “At least 15.3 million Americans lived within a mile of a well that has been drilled since 2000. That is more people than live in Michigan or New York City.”
That report also found that in Johnson County, Texas alone “…more than 3,900 wells dot the county and some 99.5% of its 150,000 residents live within a mile of a well.”
Like many places across the U.S., Johnson County is now basically one big drill site.
Not surprisingly, the fossil fuel industry is pushing fracking hard. Big oil has even found a friend in President Obama, who touted natural gas as a “bridge fuel” in his most recent State of the Union address.
All due respect to the president, but fracking is not safe. Numerous studies have shown that it contaminates drinking water, threatens public health, and, in some cases, even causes earthquakes.
If any industry in the country needs regulation it’s the fracking industry, but thanks in large part to Dick Cheney, it’s exempt from having to follow most important environmental laws on the books.
Let me explain: Back in 2005. President - excuse me Vice President - Cheney was hard at work doing what he did best: using his power as the second most powerful man in the country to protect his cronies in the oil business.
His former employer, Halliburton, wanted to get more involved in the emerging American fracking industry, but it faced a potential major roadblock in the form of a 1974 law called the Safe Water Drinking Act.
That act, signed into law by Republican President Gerald Ford, requires the Environmental Protection Agency to keep toxic chemicals from getting into Americans’ drinking water.
Cheney didn’t care about public safety but he did care about Halliburton’s bottom-line - after all, he was a big Halliburton stockholder when he became vice president - and so he joined the lobbying efforts to get Congress to carve out an exemption for fracking in the Safe Water Drinking Act.
Thanks to that carve-out - let’s call it the “Halliburton loophole” - the EPA can’t regulate fracking poisons even when they get into our water supply.
But Cheney and his oil industry buddies didn’t stop there. In 2005, Congress also gave the natural gas industry an exemption from having to write up reports on its activities under the National Environmental Policy Act and expanded its exemption from having to follow Clean Water Act regulations on what kind of chemicals it can dump in storm water runoff.
Coupled with existing exemptions to a variety of pollution laws like the Clean Air Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Superfund Act, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, the 2005 carve-outs gave the fracking industry seven total exemptions from important environmental regulations.
Nine years later, it’s clear that Dick Cheney and Halliburton got what they wanted. Free from having to follow even the most basic environmental regulations, the fracking industry is bigger than ever and will likely continue to grow well into the future.
While other countries like France and Bulgaria with rich reserves of natural gas have banned fracking altogether, we here in the United States have done the exact opposite.
Thanks to Dick Cheney’s Halliburton loophole, anyone who lives near a fracking site is one of the oil industry’s guinea pigs in a giant multi-decade fracking experiment.
But we don’t have to sit back and take it while big gas pollutes our water, our bodies, and our environment.
We need to take action now to close the Halliburton loophole and all the rest of the fracking industry’s exemptions before more people’s water supplies and lives are ruined.
Call your local member of Congress right now and tell them that it’s time to say goodbye to the Bush years once and for all and close the Halliburton loopholes.