Do 110 Pennsylvania Legislators Not Read The New York Times?

Are politicians willing to take responsibility for their debatably harmful actions? This Monday, Pennsylvania’s House lawmakers voted to reject a fracking wastewater amendment.

According to The Times-Tribune, the amendment proposed to increase regulatory oversight for trucks hauling hydrofracking wastewater from drilling sites in the Marcellus Shale. The amendment would have required drivers to be trained on how to handle hazardous material if they were hauling hydraofracking wastewater. The vehicles would also need to be labeled as carrying hazardous wastes.

Rep. Phyllis Mundy, a Democrat from Kingston representing the 120th district, offered the amendment, stating, “My amendment would make sure drivers transporting frack water are held to the highest standards.”

Recent truck accidents have spilled frack wastewater in the Dimock region. According to a Vanity Fair report, “Fleets of trucks have to make hundreds of trips to carry the fracking fluid to and from each well site.”

Just last month, two major accidents involving trucks carrying fracking wastewater occurred in Clinton County, Pennsylvania. In the most recent accident, 3,400 gallons of fracking wastewater leaked out and seeped into the ground. MSNBC reports that neighbors were advised not to drink their water, and the truck company provided free bottled water instead. 

The House defeated the amendment to regulate these trucks in a 110-84 vote, a split mainly down party lines. Rep. John Payne, R-106, Hershey, stated that regulations already cover the transport of fracking wastewater, and the Motor Carrier Safety Administration deems which materials are hazardous. 

The New York Times recently came out with the third part of an ongoing exposé on fracking and shale gas threats. The piece reports on the political pressures that have forced the EPA to remain quiet on hydraulic fracturing regulations. Ian Urbina writes:

“Natural gas drilling companies have major exemptions from parts of at least 7 of the 15 sweeping federal environmental laws that regulate most other heavy industries and were written to protect air and drinking water from radioactive and hazardous chemicals.”

These exemptions, according to the report, are due to pressure on the EPA from Congress and the gas industry.

In other words, politicians are preventing a government agency from protecting the American people – the same citizens who elected these politicians to protect them in the first place from, say, reckless oil and gas industry behavior, for instance.

The question then is: are these politicians willing to take responsibility for the resulting health problems inflicted on their citizens? Are the 110 Pennsylvania legislators who voted no on this basic safety measure willing to be held accountable for any nosebleed, liver failure, heart failure, respiratory system failure, or cancer that may ultimately be connected to a fracking wastewater spill?

Despite today’s setback, Rep. Mundy vows to continue her fight to protect the public from fracking wastewater threats, and says she plans to introduce her proposal as a separate bill soon.