Tuesday, September 1, 2015

EPA pushed to rewrite oil and gas waste disposal rules

                                                 Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
Seven environmental organizations say they will sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to force the agency to set new and tighter standards for disposal of oil and gas drilling and fracking waste that they say now threatens public health and the environment, Don Hopey reports in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The groups, in a notice of intent to sue filed last week in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., allege that the federal agency has failed for 27 years to update and tighten baseline drilling and waste disposal regulations, as required by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the federal law that governs waste disposal.
Adam Kron, an attorney at the Environmental Integrity Project, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental group that was among those filing the notice, said the agency should “do its legal duty” and follow its own 1988 determination that concluded federal regulations for oil and gas wastes were inadequate and should be changed.
“The oil and gas industry has grown rapidly since then, and yet EPA has repeatedly shirked its duties for nearly three decades,” Mr. Kron said. “The public deserves better protection than this.”
The official court filing of a notice, a requirement under the recovery act, gives the agency 60 days to review and revise the regulations for disposal of the waste, which includes carcinogenic chemicals and radioactive waste found in drilling mud, drilling wastewater and fracking flowback water. If environmental officials do not begin to revise rules and commit to a schedule for completing those revisions within the next two months, the groups plan to ask the federal court to set tight deadlines for a regulatory update, said Matthew McFeeley, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, another participant intending to file suit.
The defense council filed a rule-making petition in 2011 asking the agency to update the waste rules but received no response, he said.
The agency issued a statement saying it will review the notice and any related information submitted to the agency. It noted that the agency proposed pretreatment standards that would require zero discharge of pollutants from unconventional oil and natural gas extraction facilities into municipal wastewater treatment plants, and has worked with states on better regulation of deep well injection of drilling and fracking wastewater.

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