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Republicans Don’t Want Americans to Know What Chemicals Go into Their Ground and Water

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid added to his energy/oil spill response bill a measure from Chuck Schumer and Bob Casey that would force companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) to disclose the chemicals used to extract natural gas from rocks. This mere act of disclosure has put Republicans up in arms:

Republicans are wary of the addition, which comes on Page 404 of the 409-page spill response bill that Reid wants the Senate to take up before the recess. The language is not in the bill the House will vote on by Friday.

GOP objections to any portion of the larger bill could stall Senate progress, since senior Democratic staff indicated that Reid will not allow amendments.

Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma said the new requirements could effectively end onshore natural gas production. He noted that some states already have hydrofracking safety and disclosure regulations but that making the requirements national would freeze the industry.

If merely disclosing the ingredients, which end up seeping into the water supply, used in fracking would destroy the industry, then it’s not an industry that should be implemented in this country. What Inhofe is saying is that, if people knew what crap was being put into their water supply, then nobody would stand for it. He’s arguing for secrecy with chemicals that can sicken and kill people.

I don’t know whether the fracking provision is a last-minute bone thrown to environmentalists or not – actually, many environmentalists think it doesn’t go far enough – but it sounds like the most common-sense idea you can imagine. Let’s find out what’s going into our water and our ground. That’s what Republicans and the industry they support don’t want.

Meanwhile, with Republicans finding new bits to oppose and some Democrats perhaps objecting to the full energy package as well, it seems like even a small-bill bill, practically all of the major elements of which have bipartisan support, won’t be able to get through the broken Senate.

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David Dayen

David Dayen