2002 Scorecard Vote
Half of the U.S. population relies on groundwater for its drinking water. Contaminated groundwater is difficult, and often impossible, to clean up. Congress recognized the importance of protecting drinking water by passing the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Hydraulic fracturing is a method of increasing oil and gas yields that puts underground sources of drinking water at risk. High-pressure injection of sand, water and toxic chemicals, including diesel fuel, into natural gas and oil wells fractures rock formations to release greater quantities of oil and gas. This procedure is also used to extract methane gas from shallow coal formations that often exist within underground sources of drinking water. Conservationists and nearby ranchers and farmers oppose this procedure because it puts drinking water at risk of contamination.
In December 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that hydraulic fracturing should be regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. In response, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) attempted to block the regulation of hydraulic fracturing in his first draft of the energy bill in December 2001, but was prevented from doing so by Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT).
During final consideration of the Senate energy bill (S. 517), Senators Bingaman and Inhofe (R-OK) introduced an amendment requiring that the EPA study the effects of hydraulic fracturing on underground sources of drinking water. Although couched as a simple study, this provision would block regulation of hydraulic fracturing in the interim, and could result in a permanent exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act. On March 7, 2002, the Senate approved the Bingaman-Inhofe amendment by a 78-21 vote (Senate roll call vote 43). NO is the pro-environment vote. At press time the House and Senate conference on the energy package had not produced a final bill.