Waste Management

Could US Fracking Pollution Get Worse?

Aug 10 2017 Read 760 Times

The Trump administration has taken another step in rolling back the environmental protection legislation put in place by his predecessor Barack Obama. This time, Trump and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have targeted fracking and the federal laws passed by Obama in ensuring it is enacted safely and responsibly.

The BLM has defended the decision, claiming that the law was nothing more than a replica of existing state legislation which placed unnecessarily onerous demands on oil and gas companies. However, environmentalists are concerned it could lead to slacker practices and widespread pollution.

Trump rolling back the years

The law was initially finalised two years ago, amid concerns that US fracking spills were getting worse. As a result, the law had hoped to ensure that the contaminants used in the fracking process never found their way into streams, rivers and waterways (potentially polluting the water supply) by having companies disclose the chemicals used and forcing them to meet stringent regulations surrounding their methods.

Despite its finalisation at the time, it never actually passed into effect due to a series of legal challenges from oil and gas companies and a handful of state officials. Throughout the Obama tenure, the BLM had staunchly defended it, but now that Trump has taken the helm, it seems set to fall by the wayside.

The U-turn became complete when the BLM announced that the law was simply a duplicate of existing state legislation, and that it “imposes burdensome reporting requirements and other unjustified costs” amounting to at least $32 million a year on the fossil fuel industry. Republicans have, on the whole, backed deregulation of fracking, claiming it is not the job of the White House to control the industry.

“I applaud Secretary Zinke and his team for their work in returning the department, its sub-agencies and bureaus to their core statutory functions,” declared Rob Bishop, a Utah statesman for the Republican Party. “Taking this job-killing federal regulatory overreach off the books is an important step in this process.”

Critics up in arms

While supporters might celebrate the decision to scrap the law, environmentalists have seen it as just one more indicator that Trump is unwilling to explore sustainability in mining and prioritises profit above sustainable practices.

“This administration is sacrificing our public lands and neighboring communities to the oil and gas industry,” bemoaned Amy Mall, who serves as an analyst at the National Resources Defence Council (NRDC).

“While these rules still fall far short of what’s needed to reduce impacts from fracking, they would have provided some much-needed steps to better safeguard drinking water supplies, public health, and the environment.”

Concerns continue to grow around the practice of fracking. Critics have warned that as well as contaminating water supplies, it could also pollute airwaves, increase soil contamination and even result in a higher incidence of earthquakes. Though it’s unclear what the full implications of the practice may turn out to be, environmentalists are squarely against its continued development – especially in Denton, Texas, the town where it was first introduced in the US.

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