Greens Seek to Block Gulf |Fracking Waste Proposal

     NEW ORLEANS (CN) – The Obama Administration has allowed unlimited dumping of hazardous offshore fracking wastewater into the Gulf of Mexico, and a new proposal seeks to continue the practice, an environmental group says.
     The Environmental Protection Agency recently announced a new permit condition that requires oil companies to maintain an inventory of the chemicals used in offshore fracking activities and in doing so has placed new, higher limits on the amount of offshore fracking wastewater that can be dumped under the Clean Water Act, the Center for Biological Diversity warned in a Sept. 17 letter.
     The Center for Biological Diversity said the proposed permit violates the Clean Water Act because it causes an “undue degradation” of the marine environment.
     “The permit allows the unlimited discharge of produced wastewater, including the unlimited discharge of chemicals used in offshore fracking and other well-stimulation treatments,” the letter said.
     “The EPA is endangering an entire ecosystem by allowing the oil industry to dump unlimited amounts of fracking chemicals and drilling waste fluid into the Gulf of Mexico,” Center attorney Kristen Monsell said in a statement. “This appalling plan from the agency that’s supposed to protect our water violates federal law and shows a disturbing disregard for offshore fracking’s toxic threats to sea turtles and other Gulf wildlife.”
     EPA is relying on a 33-year-old study of waste fluid produced by offshore platforms, despite the drilling of more than 450 wells in the area since 2010 alone. Last June the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit challenging the government’s failure to disclose the scope of offshore fracking in the Gulf of Mexico.
     The Gulf of Mexico is the ninth largest body of water on the planet and one of the most ecologically diverse environments.
     The Gulf is home to 28 percent of wetlands in the U.S. and 41 percent of open water. In addition to marine species, hundreds of millions of migratory birds travel through the Gulf every year and will be adversely affected if the EPA is allowed to go ahead with its dumping allowance, the letter said.
     The29-page letter urges the EPA to adopt a zero-discharge requirement for produced water and fracking chemicals, as is required under other offshore drilling permits.
     The letter said equipment already exists to help the fracking industry meet a zero-discharge requirement.
     At least 10 fracking chemicals routinely used in offshore fracking could kill or harm a broad variety of marine species, including marine mammals and fish, Center scientists said.
     The California Council on Science and Technology has identified some common fracking chemicals to be among the most toxic in the world to marine animals, the letter said.
     Fracking chemicals raise grave ecological concerns because, among other factors, the Gulf of Mexico is important habitat for whales, sea turtles and fish, and contains critical habitat for imperiled loggerhead sea turtles.
     Dolphins and other species in the Gulf are still suffering lingering effects from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to an emailed statement from the group.
     As explained in the letter, the EPA is proposing to allow oil companies to discharge fracking chemicals without even knowing how much fracking has, or would, occur in the Gulf by relying on data from 1988.
     Information recently obtained by the Center indicates that oil companies were permitted to frack more than 1,200 times from more than 600 wells from 2010 to 2014 alone. And the agency is relying on more than 30-year-old data to estimate the volume of produced water to be discharged.
     
     “The Obama administration can’t just turn a blind eye to how offshore fracking could hurt the Gulf’s wildlife,” Monsell said. “It’s the EPA’s job to protect water quality from offshore fracking, not rubberstamp the dumping of the wastewater from this dangerous, disgusting practice.”

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