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April 22, 2013

Time to Celebrate Fresher Air and Cleaner Water and Protect Landscapes from Fracking

Monterey-County-landscapeLandscape in Monterey County, California

By Deb Nardone, Director of Beyond Natural Gas Campaign

Today we celebrate Earth Day -- and envision a future in which the air is not polluted, water is not contaminated, and landscapes are not being destroyed.

Fracking causes these negative impacts on our environment, and it directly affects our public health and well-being. But there is hope for a better future that protects our health, environment, and climate. Just last month, two new bills were introduced in Congress -- the BREATHE and FRESHER acts -- which aim to close critical loopholes in the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. And this month in California, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity won a landmark victory when a federal judge ruled that the Obama administration broke the law when it failed to consider the environmental impacts of fracking before leasing 2,700 acres of public land in Monterey and Fresno counties to oil and gas drillers. These victories give hope to children, families, and communities that some people in government are looking out for the public's best interest.

Clean-airThe BREATHE Act, sponsored by Colorado Congressman Jared Polis, aims to close the Clean Air Act loophole that exempts the oil and gas industries from having to take any precautionary measures to prevent toxic air pollution while they are exploring and extracting oil and natural gas. The bill will also add hydrogen sulfide, also known as "sewer gas," to the federal list of hazardous air pollutants and help ensure that the industry takes measures to avoid the release of this toxic substance into the air. This gas, which smells like rotten eggs, has been associated with nausea, vomiting, headaches, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat for many people living near oil and gas wells.

Clean-waterThe FRESHER Act (also known as the Focused Reduction of Effluence and Storm water runoff through Hydrofracking Environmental Regulation Act), sponsored by Pennsylvania Congressman Matthew Cartwright, aims to close a Clean Water Act loophole. For too long, the oil and gas industry have been exempt from having to adequately manage stormwater pollution and runoff from the large acres of industrial development needed for natural gas wells. Stormwater provisions are commonsense precautions that are critical for protecting water quality. And to further lower the chances of stormwater pollution, the bill also directs the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a study of the impacts of stormwater runoff from fracking infrastructure.

In California -- one of the most progressive states in the nation and home to some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world -- a federal judge ruled in favor of protecting its beautiful public lands from being leased to dirty fracking. U.S. District Judge Paul Grewal said the federal government violated the nation's environmental laws when it awarded permits to oil companies to frack without first conducting an environmental impact study. This landmark victory has secured a moratorium on fracking for 2,700 acres of public land in southern Monterey County.

Monterey-County-CaliforniaMonterey County, California | Photo by Brendel Signature, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

We need more of these common-sense decisions. They are important steps we can take to protect the public from fracking. On Earth Day, I am thankful for those political supporters who are on the right side of the fracking fence and are willing to stand up to the big fossil fuel polluters and say enough is enough. They have found the courage to demand that the gas industry be reined in, and they want to secure a clean, healthy future for our children. Continuing to rely on dirty, dangerous fossil fuels is a bad bet. There are better ways to truly secure a clean-energy future where we won't have to compromise on fresh air, clean water, and treasured landscapes nor acquiesce to further climate disruption.

We already have the technology and the solutions to secure clean energy through renewables, such as solar and wind, and to double down on energy efficiency. What we need now are the political will and the investment security to make what we already envision -- a clean planet -- a reality.

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