A loophole in federal water quality laws has allowed fracking companies to evade regulations requiring companies to get permits before using substances or methods that could expose dangerous chemicals to drinking water, according to a new report by the Environmental Integrity Project.
The Safe Water Drinking Act mandates heavy regulations on the use of diesel, which is used in nearly all fracking wells, and is often mixed with other toxic chemicals such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. However, as the Environmental Integrity Project notes, the “Halliburton Loophole” allows for fracking companies to inject these chemicals into wells near drinking water without any limitations.
EarthWorks reports the loophole was named after the 2001 special energy task force headed by Vice President Dick Cheney that recommended that Congress exempt hydraulic fracturing from the requirements of the Safe Water Drinking Act. Cheney was the former CEO of Halliburton, which owns the original patents on the hydraulic fracturing process, and is still one of the largest manufacturers of fracking chemicals today.
As the report notes, at least 21 fracking fluids sold by Halliburton and other companies contain exceptionally high concentrations of ethylbenzene, a probable carcinogen, and xylene and toluene, which have been linked to neurological illness.
According to data obtained from FracFocus, the Environmental Integrity Project reports that at least 153 wells in 11 states were using ethylbenzene in their fracturing processes. The report notes that its findings may only be the tip of the iceberg, as their data was reliant on companies voluntarily disclosing their data to FracFocus, which many companies declined to do.
As the Environmental Integrity Project and The Huffington Post note, all of these permit-free injections of fracking fluid are currently legal under federal law, thanks to the Halliburton Loophole. “The scandal in this case is not illegal conduct,” Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project told The Huffington Post. “It’s what the law actually allows you to do.”
The full report from the Environmental Integrity Project can be found here.