Washington, D.C. — As President Obama’s energy priorities are laid out in tonight’s State of the Union, groups urged the president to make sure that development of natural gas resources does not come at the expense of public health.
In a letter signed by two dozen public health and environmental groups, advocates cautioned that protections for public health have not kept pace with the industry’s explosive growth in recent years.
During the Bush and Cheney administration, the oil and gas industry was granted exemptions from the Safe Drinking Water Act and other laws designed to protect public health. These loopholes helped pave the way for a gas drilling boom that relies on a controversial gas extraction technique—known as hydraulic fracturing—in which drillers blast millions of gallons of chemically treated water into the earth to force gas from underground deposits.
Earthjustice was among the groups that signed on to the letter to President Obama. The following is a statement from Earthjustice Legislative Associate Jessica Ennis:
“We need clean sources of energy to power our lives. But with current practices in the industry, natural gas cannot be considered such a source.
“The truth is, people all over the country have been placed in harm’s way by rushed and irresponsible gas development. We need to look at the full life-cycle of gas development and transportation from the perspectives of both carbon pollution in our atmosphere and threats to public health. At stake is the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the wild places that feed our spirit.
“The good news is that American companies have shown, time and again, their ability to meet challenges through innovation. We hope that President Obama will lead the way and prompt the oil and gas industry to get to work solving these important problems.”
Obama didn’t address this in his speech, but let’s hope he got the message and does more to protect the public from harmful oil and natural gas drilling in 2011.