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Economic Concerns Should Not Overrule the Environment

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When President Barrack Obama took office in 2008, this country was facing its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. While the country has not returned to its pre-recession boom, the President successfully helped to lead us from the abyss. Compared to similar nations around the world, particularly in Europe, we are much better positioned going forward. However, too many people have demonstrated a willingness to ignore environmental concerns in order to focus entirely on economic concerns. Not only does this ignore the relationship between these two issues, it also puts short-term profits ahead of long-term goals. This is the same strategy which created the economic meltdown.

The most obvious example of this mindset is the strategy chosen to regulate hydraulic fracturing known as "fracking," the process of injecting water and chemicals into the ground under high pressures in order to gain access to natural gas and oil. Just last week, the Interior Department released a new set of proposed regulations related to fracking for oil and gas on public lands in the United States. These proposed regulations are viewed by some as the gold standard for what is considered safe and responsible drilling. While I commend the effort to set a baseline for safe and responsible fracking, more stringent steps must be taken, such as full disclosure of the chemicals used in the drilling process, to ensure the safety of such processes. Full disclosure would aid in ground water protection and well integrity, both critical to ensuring the safety of our drinking water and has been strongly supported by most environmental groups and public advocates.

Another concern is that the new regulations allow oil and gas companies to perform well integrity tests on one representative well rather than all the wells in a field, where, according to the New York Times, "the geology and well construction techniques are similar." Companies using public lands should be required to perform thorough testing on all wells in order to fully ensure water safety.

Additionally, the Interior Department has given 30 days for response and comments on these proposed rules. The standard time frame for public comments is 60 days. The importance of this issue demands more than 30 days in order to provide adequate time and consideration of the concerns raised. In a rare instance of bipartisan support, several members of Congress have complained to the Interior Department that the 30 day timeframe is "unacceptable and not nearly long enough to allow the public to formulate in-depth and constructive comments on this one hundred seventy - one page, complicated rule."

Lastly, a report done by the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, found the Environmental Protection Agency is facing numerous hurdles, which impedes the ability of the EPA to effectively manage the increased volume of fracking around the country. The report further states that fracking is creating long term, "unknown" health risks.

Given these significant concerns for the health and safety of the American people, and having served 35 years in both legislative and executive public service and as a community activist, I believe what is needed is a strong, clear and effective public policy coupled with responsible corporate citizenship. This public/private partnership makes the safety and well being of Americans priority number one!

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