Huffman Announces Bill to Protect Water Resources from Oil and Gas Pollution

March 05, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA), Chair of the Water, Oceans, and Wildlife subcommittee and member of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, introduced the Oil and Water Don’t Mix Act, legislation to ensure America’s water resources are protected from the impacts of oil and gas production.

“Over the past four years, President Trump and the fossil fuel interests he’s hired to run his administration have repeatedly stripped away commonsense protections for the nation’s water resources while simultaneously going on a dirty energy drilling binge,” said Rep. Huffman. “My bill closes these loopholes and ensures that America’s water resources, especially drinking water sources, aren’t contaminated by harmful oil and gas development. Every community has a right to safe, clean water, and should be protected from the impacts of fossil fuel operations.”

“At a time when the oil and gas industry is still exempt from important environmental protections and allowed to exploit our public lands for fracking and conventional drilling, this bill makes good headway in protecting people from some of the toxic pollutants and other harmful effects. We have to safeguard communities, drinking water supplies and wildlife from these dangers,” said Amy Mall, a senior advocate with NRDC’s Nature Program.

“The oil and gas industry’s business model relies on putting our water and health at risk – for decades it has drilled holes in the laws and regulations that protect our water and communities in order to pad its profits. While we work to transition away from fossil fuels, we need to limit the damage caused by oil and gas development by strengthening and enforcing bedrock safeguards meant to prevent water pollution and protect drinking water. This bill would take meaningful steps to rein in polluting oil and gas development, improve transparency around chemical additives and wastewater contaminants, and limit trade secret claims this toxic industry loves to hide behind,” said Andrew Grinberg, National Campaigns Special Projects Manager for Clean Water Action.

“For too long, no federal legislation has protected landowners' and communities' water resources from being contaminated or diminished by fracking on public lands and the federal mineral estate. The Oil and Water Don't Mix Act corrects this by requiring a water management plan in advance of drilling, which must include baseline water testing and a commitment to provide replacement water to impacted users. This bill is an important step forward to enact crucial safeguards for water resources by requiring the oil and gas industry to actively plan for the protection of other water users' rights as well as the quality and quantity of groundwater and surface water,” said Barbara Vasquez, Chair of the Western Organization of Resource Councils Oil and Gas Campaign Team.

Specifically, this legislation would protect water resources from the impacts of oil and gas development by:

  • requiring oil and gas operators on public lands to submit a robust water management plan to the Bureau of Land Management, and to replace water supplies when their operations negatively affect the quality or quantity or surface or groundwater supplies;
  • requiring the Bureau of Land Management to promulgate regulations to cover the impacts to water resources of hydraulic fracturing on federal lands, including baseline water testing and public disclosure, and full public disclosure of fracking chemicals; and
  • closing other legal loopholes for oil and gas operations, including the notorious “Halliburton loophole” that exempts the industry from the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The bill is cosponsored by Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AR),  Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Chair Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), and Energy and Commerce Committee member Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA).

Full text of the legislation can be found here.