THE BLOG

Loopholes and Exemptions; How the Oil and Gas Industry Is Allowed to Police Itself

06/24/2010 07:54 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The blowout on Deepwater Horizon caused the worst environmental disaster in American history. But the hole in the well isn't the only one Washington needs to plug.

A series of legal and regulatory loopholes has effectively allowed the oil and gas industry to police itself. Many of these loopholes remain wide open:

  • The Minerals Management Service granted BP a "categorical exclusion" under the National Environmental Policy Act, exempting the project from an environmental review.

  • A "Halliburton Exemption" from the Safe Drinking Water Act has enabled drillers to engage in hydraulic fracturing without identifying the chemicals they use or the damage they cause.
  • An exemption from the Clean Air Act has allowed 450 wells in Garfield County, Colorado to release 30 tons of carcinogenic benzene - 20 times more than a non-exempt industrial plant in Denver.
  • Congress should close these loopholes, as well as the exemptions drillers have carved out of the Clean Water Act; the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act; and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

    Plenty of candidates promise to stand up to special interests. In a fundraising appeal he sent out last week, for example, my opponent Senator Bennet criticized the "lax regulations and long-standing corporate loopholes" that lead to "catastrophic financial and environmental disasters."

    Mr. Bennet's stance, however, contained a loophole of its own. Twenty-four hours earlier, he voted to preserve more than $35 billion in tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, instead of using that money to reduce the deficit and advance energy efficiency and conservation.

    As Colorado's next U.S. Senator, I will fight to protect our health and safety. I will promote economic development and support energy exploration practices that do not endanger our environment. And I will never have to worry about displeasing my corporate contributors - I don't have any.