Will rules on oil and gas industry wastewater be revised?

A consent decree recently approved in federal court ordering the federal Environmental Protection Agency to review its rules for the disposal and handling of oil and gas waste may be far from perfect, environmentalists say, but at least it’s a start.

“It is a step in the right direction,” said Amy Mall, senior policy analyst for the National Resources Defense Counsel.

The present rules, she noted, are outdated and badly in need of revision.

Under the consent decree, the EPA is required upon review to revise the rules that have been in place for the past 30 years.

But that’s a big “if,” Mall said.

“I think there is a very good chance that they will not issue new regulations,” she said recently.

In their lawsuit, environmental groups raised a number of issues they hope to see addressed, including the disposal of wastewater in underground injection wells, which have been linked to earthquakes in some western states, as well as the spread of wastewater onto roads or fields, resulting in toxic pollutants to run off and potentially contaminate streams.

In addition, concerns have been raised about landfills and pits having adequate liners to prevent spills and leaks into groundwater and streams.

“We think the rules are extremely outdated,” Mall said.

Barbara Jarmoska, a member of Responsible Drilling Alliance, outlined a number of concerns as a declarant in the lawsuit against the EPA.

As a landowner in Gamble Township, Lycoming County, she noted concerns to her drinking water and gas development on state forest lands and in the surrounding area of her property, including nearby Loyalsock Creek.

She raised concerns about “the massive amounts of wastes produced by gas production activities in Lycoming County” that pose threats to not only her family, but the community.

“I believe that Pennsylvania and the DEP have not done enough to protect public health and the environment from the hazards associated with oil and gas wastes,” she wrote. “Pennsylvania’s current regulations are too lax and do not reflect the realities of modern drilling …”

Jarmoska told Central PA Shale Play she is concerned that there may well be a review, but no revision of rules by the EPA.

DEP, a state regulatory agency, simply has not been staffed to properly regulate the oil and gas drilling industry in Pennsylvania, she noted.

She is concerned that under the Trump Administration, the EPA will take no real action.

“If the election had gone other way, we might have been more protected,” she said. “I am very concerned.”

The EPA released the following statement with regard to the court order: “EPA is currently reviewing its federal solid waste regulations with respect to oil and gas exploration and production wastes as stipulated under the Consent Decree. EPA will determine whether or not regulations for these wastes are necessary and take action prior to March of 2019 as required by the consent decree issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.”

“We are glad the EPA will be reviewing them,” Mall said.

Like Jarmoska, she thinks that under the present administration, nothing will change, however.

“Under his administration, it doesn’t look good,” she said.


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