Well-paying jobs have become plentiful; however, most are temporary, ending when the gas companies declare a site no longer profitable. But, high-pressure horizontal fracturing (known as fracking), the process the companies are using to get to the gas more than a mile beneath the surface, is leaving in its wake health and environmental issues that could be as serious as those that surrounded the timber, coal, oil, and nuclear industries.
But there is one major difference. Several federal environmental protection laws don't apply to the natural gas industry.
Dick Cheney, whose promotion of Big Business and opposition to environmental policies is well-documented, as vice-president had pushed for Big Energy's exemption from the Safe Water Drinking Act. His hand-picked "energy task force," composed primarily of industry representatives, had concluded that fracking was a safe procedure. Cheney had been CEO of Halliburton, one of the world's largest energy companies; the exemption became known derisively as the Halliburton Loophole. That legislation, says Al Gore, " put the whole industry in such a privileged position, it disadvantages the advocates of the public interest, which was the intention."
Among other federal environmental laws that the natural gas industry is exempt from are National Environmental Policy Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the nation's SuperFund law, which requires companies that pollute the environment to take a fiscal responsibility.
The first Earth Day was in 1970. The people demanded, and eventually got, Congress to enact legislation not only to protect the air and water, but to create a federal agency to enforce those regulations. Today, more than four decades later, it is important that the people push a weak-willed Congress, inflated by Big Energy political contributions, to do what is right, eliminate all loopholes and exemptions, and force the natural gas industry to be accountable for all laws that protect the public health and environment.
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