Citing Earthquakes, EPA Urged to Toughen Regs

     (CN) — With data linking pollution to earthquakes and contaminated drinking water, regulators must get strict on disposing oil and gas waste, nonprofits say in a federal complaint.
     With no federal review of oil and gas waste criteria since 1988, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies, or fracking, have become “mainstream” in the industry, according to the complaint filed last week in Washington.
     The Environmental Integrity Project and six other groups say wastewater from these practices is typically disposed of in underground injection wells
     A statement that the project released with the May 4 lawsuit says the wells “have been linked to numerous earthquakes in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas.”
     “Updated rules for oil and gas wastes are almost 30 years overdue, and we need them now more than ever,” Adam Kron, a senior attorney at the Environmental Integrity Project, said in the statement. “Each well now generates millions of gallons of wastewater and hundreds of tons of solid wastes, and yet EPA’s inaction has kept the most basic, inadequate rules in place. The public deserves better than this.”
     The complaint notes that another method of disposal, “road-spreading,” can allow toxic runoff to into bodies of water. Pits meanwhile can leak.
     A spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Agency declined to comment on pending litigation but did emphasize the “primary role” it says states play in regulating most natural gas and oil development.
     “EPA’s authority is limited by statutory or regulatory exemptions under the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act,” the spokeswoman said in an email. “Where EPA’s exemptions exist, states may have authority to regulate unconventional oil and gas extraction activities under their own state laws. The EPA continues to work with states and other stakeholders to understand and address potential concerns with hydraulic fracturing to ensure that natural gas and oil production will proceed in a safe and responsible manner.”
     Alleging violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, environmentalists accuse the EPA of having created a “state-by-state patchwork, where operators can ‘venue shop’ for the least stringent requirements and community protections from human health and environmental impacts.”
     The other six plaintiffs are the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthworks, Responsible Drilling Alliance, San Juan Citizens Alliance, West Virginia Surface Owners’ Rights Organization, and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.
     Adam Kron, senior attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project, represents the groups with NRDC attorney Jared Knicley.
     They filed an intent to sue back in August.
     EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is the only named defendant.

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