Thursday, January 29, 2015

10 Senate Ds Think Drillers Should Be Able to Inject Whatever the Frack They Want into Your Water

Last night, I reported on the 12 amendments that the Senate voted on in its latest Keystone vote-a-thon.  However, I want to focus on one in particular: Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)'s amendment to close the Halliburton loophole.

So what is the Halliburton loophole?

First of all, it comes from the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was a corporate giveaway to Big Energy:
The bill exempts oil and gas industries from some clean-water laws, streamlines permits for oil wells and power lines on public lands, and helps the hydropower industry appeal environmental restrictions. One obscure provision would repeal a Depression-era law that has prevented consolidation of public utilities, potentially transforming the nation's electricity markets.

It also includes an estimated $85 billion worth of subsidies and tax breaks for most forms of energy -- including oil and gas, "clean coal," ethanol, electricity, and solar and wind power. The nuclear industry got subsidies for research, waste reprocessing, construction, operation and even decommission. The petroleum industry got new incentives to drill in the Gulf of Mexico -- as if $60-a-barrel oil wasn't enough of an incentive. The already-subsidized ethanol industry got a federal mandate that will nearly double its output by 2012 -- as well as new subsidies to develop ethanol from other sources.
The Halliburton Loophole, alluded to in the passage above, is the term for the provision that exempted gas drilling and extraction from requirements in the underground injection control (UIC) program of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Injecting carcinogens into the ground during fracking? Don't ask. Don't tell. 
It got the name "Halliburton Loophole" because it is widely viewed as the effort of former Halliburton CEO who happened to occupy the vice presidency.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the roll call votes for the Senate and House back then to see how the Senators still with us today voted.

Four Democrats still in the Senate and one who moved up from the House voted for the Energy Policy Act:

Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Tom Udall (D-NM)

9 Democrats still in the Senate and 5 Democrats (plus 1 Independent) who moved up from the House voted against the Energy Policy Act:

Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Pat Leahy (D-VT)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)

President Barack Obama voted for it as a senator from Illinois, whereas Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had all voted against it as the senators from Delaware, Massachusetts, and New York, respectively.

Now back to the present.

Here's how Kirsten Gillibrand described her amendment, the one of three she offered to receive a vote:
Amendment 48, to remove the Halliburton loophole from the Safe Drinking Water Act, and finally require gas storage and gas drilling companies to comply with the clean water laws of the United States. Every other energy industry already has to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act, and this amendment would finally hold the gas industry to the same environmental and public health standards as everyone else.
It finally got a vote last night, and as expected, it failed: 35 to 63
Ten Democrats joined with Republicans in voting against it:
Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Jon Tester (D-MT)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Mark Warner (D-VA)

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