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Thursday, October 2, 2014

State oil/gas groundwater protection rules improved, but still need major work

The Ground Water Protection Council has issued an update to its 2009 report on groundwater protection rules in 27 states that account for more than 98 percent of the country’s oil and gas production.

State oil and gas regulations designed to protect water resources, 2014 Edition says that states have “substantially improved” groundwater protection laws and regulations governing oil and gas production. But the report also identifies “emerging issues that merit more detailed consideration in future state regulatory evaluations”, including:

  • Analyzing the potential migration of injected fluids from the stimulated zone to water supplies, using an area of review concept (a concept embraced by the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, but not by Pennsylvania). 
  • Mandatory suspension of fracking operations when problems are encountered 
  • Taking a lifecycle approach to well integrity through monitoring 
  • Sampling and analysis of water resources potentially at risk from oil and gas development 
  • Treatment and waste stream management related to the use of brackish groundwater 
  • Reuse of produced water 
  • Proper disposal, handling and exposure limits related to NORM
The report also discusses the need for additional research on the risks to water from fracking and NORM.

Finally, in updating their rules, GWPC said that states should focus on:

By some measures, Pennsylvania compares fairly favorably to other states in terms of its oil and gas regulations. But that may be nothing more than damning with faint praise. An assessment of what exists on paper is at best half the equation. How regulations are interpreted and enforced are key. In Pennsylvania, at least, enforcement has been seriously degraded by savage budget cuts and political ideology.

Valuable reports like GWPC's need to be considered – and their limitations understood.


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