Yesterday, I blogged about an EPA Office of Inspector General report that faulted the agency’s handling of methane emissions from natural gas pipelines. Today, there’s more disconcerting news about EPA's oversight of the oil and gas industry.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has blistered as inadequate EPA’s safeguards for protecting drinking water from underground injection of wastewater from oil and gas wells.
That's a very big deal, for as GAO points out:
Every day in the United States, at least 2 billion gallons of fluids are injected into over 172,000 wells to enhance oil and gas production, or to dispose of fluids brought to the surface during the extraction of oil and gas resources. These wells are subject to regulation to protect drinking water sources under EPA's UIC class II program and approved state class II programs. Because much of the population relies on underground sources for drinking water, these wells have raised concerns about the safety of the nation's drinking water.
DRINKING WATER: EPA Program to Protect Underground Sources from Injection of Fluids Associated With Oil and Gas Production Needs Improvement finds inadequate monitoring of state programs, lax enforcement of existing regs, unreliable data, and an inadequate response to the need to update those regs in light of new risks like induced seismicity.
This StateImpactPA story provides an excellent summary.
Protecting drinking water from the growing risks posed by the use of hydraulic fracturing is a fundamental issue. It's past time for aggressive action by EPA to get this right.
And it's further validation of the business case for squeezing the water and chemicals out of fracking.