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Fracking and water pollution

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According to the International Journal of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: Wastewater from fracking contains potentially toxic chemicals used in fracking fluid, as well as natural contaminants from deep underground, including total dissolved solids (e.g., salts, barium, strontium), organic pollutants (e.g., benzene, toluene) and normally occurring radioactive material (NORM) such as Radium 226.[1]

An estimated 30% to 70% of the fluid used in fracking will resurface, requiring treatment. Fracking also releases "produced water" from underground that also rises to the surface, and can be anywhere from two to 200 times as much water, depending on the oil/gas/water concentrations in the shale formation.[2]

A 2004 EPA study concluded fracking did not pose a risk to drinking water, helping lead to its exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act through the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The study was later criticized as limited and compromised by oil/gas industry influence. A 2009 ProPublica investigation found that contamination was far more prevalent than indicated in the report, citing more than 1,000 cases tied to drilling and fracking that had been documented by courts and state and local governments.[3]

History

The EPA began preparing its report on hydraulic fracturing and the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2000, after an Alabama court forced the agency to investigate fracturing-related water contamination there under the Act. While the EPA was still working on its report, legislation was being crafted to exempt hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act. To lessen the pressure on the report's findings, the EPA sought an agreement with the three largest hydraulic fracturing companies, including Halliburton, to stop using diesel fuel in fracturing fluids.

The EPA released its study in 2004, and was later criticized. One of the report’s three main authors, Jeffrey Jollie, an EPA hydrogeologist, cautioned that the research had been misconstrued by industry. The study focused solely on the effect hydraulic fracturing has on drinking water in coal bed methane deposits, typically shallow formations where gas is embedded in coal. It did not consider the impact of above-ground drilling or of drilling in geologic formations deep underground, where many of the large new gas reserves are being developed.

Further, buried within the 424-page report are statements explaining that fluids migrated unpredictably -- through different rock layers, and to greater distances than previously thought -- in as many as half the cases studied in the United States. The EPA identified some of the chemicals as biocides and lubricants that “can cause kidney, liver, heart, blood, and brain damage through prolonged or repeated exposure." It found that as much as a third of injected fluids, benzene in particular, remains in the ground after drilling and is “likely to be transported by groundwater."

A few months after the report’s release, the 2005 Energy Policy Act was passed, exempting the practice of fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act, based in part on the EPA study. ProPublica reported that "Almost no attention was paid to the three paragraphs that stripped the federal government of most of its authority to monitor and regulate hydraulic fracturing’s impact on the environment. By default, that responsibility would now fall to the states."[4]

Although Wyoming in 2009 is often reported to be the first case of water pollution due to fracking later documented by the EPA, the Times reported in 2011 that "a 1987 report to Congress by the Environmental Protection Agency that deals with waste from the exploration, development and production of oil, natural gas and geothermal energy ... states that hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, can cause groundwater contamination. It cites as an example a case in which hydraulic fracturing fluids contaminated a water well in West Virginia. The report also describes the difficulties that sealed court settlements created for investigators." The report concluded that hydraulic fracturing fluids or gel used by Kaiser Exploration and Mining Company contaminated a well roughly 600 feet away on the property of James Parsons in Jackson County, West Virginia. The report contradicts prior statements by the oil and gas industry that there had never been a documented case of contamination, helping the industry avoid federal regulations.[5]

Treatment

Wastewater from fracking contains potentially toxic chemicals used in fracking fluid, as well as natural contaminants from deep underground, including total dissolved solids (e.g., salts, barium, strontium), organic pollutants (e.g., benzene, toluene) and normally occurring radioactive material (NORM) such as Radium 226.[1]

To remove these chemicals and contaminants, all methods of wastewater management (including recycling, reuse, and injection into disposal wells) generally involve at least some form of treatment. Wastewater can be sent to publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) or to dedicated brine or industrial wastewater facilities, also called centralized waste treatment (CWT) facilities, which may also add coagulation and precipitation techniques to remove dissolved solids.[6]

Class II Injection Well
Class II Injection Well

Residuals

All treatment methods produce residuals—waste materials, mostly in solid, sludge, or liquid form, that remain after treatment. In the Marcellus region and elsewhere, solids and sludges are managed through conventional processes: land application or landfill, depending on their characteristics. The most common disposal option for concentrated brines from desalination is deep well injection; underground injection of wastewater is designed to isolate materials that could cause harm if released to the biosphere. An EPA risk analysis determined that injection via strictly regulated Class I hazardous waste wells is a safe and effective technology that presents a low risk to human health and the environment. Oil and gas wastes, however, are currently injected into Class II disposal wells, which are subject to fewer safety requirements and therefore pose a greater risk of contaminating groundwater and triggering earthquakes. Partial treatment of produced water, either prior to injection or at the injection well facility, is often used to reduce the likelihood of well clogging.[7]

Recycling

Due to public concerns about the high volume of water used in fracking, oil and gas drilling companies have started reusing and recycling the wastewater. The natural-gas industry uses a number of methods to recycle drilling waste. Some drillers have used recycling equipment at the well site or trucked the water to a recycling facility where the wastewater is filtered, evaporated, and then distilled, to be used again at the well. Other companies add fresh water to the wastewater, to dilute the salts and other contaminants, before pumping it back in the ground for more hydrofracking. Some of it sold for use as dust suppression or to melt ice on roads, because the brine wastewater tends to be extremely salty. Any fracking sludge that settles from these various processes is taken to landfills or is sent to injection disposal wells, according to the industry.[8]

A West Virginia official told the NY Times that melting snow and rain water would dilute the brine, making its potential toxicity less of a threat. The same official also said only brine from shallow wells is used, reducing the chance that it would be radioactive. Yet the Times investigation found that thousands of gallons of fracking wastewater sent by drilling company Ultra Resources to nine towns in Pennsylvania for the purposes of dust suppression in 2009 contained radium at almost 700 times the levels allowed in drinking water.[8]

According to High Country News, if the recycled wastewater is "clean enough," it "can be used for irrigation. In the West, millions of gallons of the wastewater is disposed of in evaporation pits near the well or huge, centralized wastewater ponds, and some is even dumped into surface waters (particularly in Wyoming)."[9]

Remediation

The 2012 National Research Council report, "Alternatives for Managing the Nation’s Complex Contaminated Groundwater Sites," concludes that US groundwater contamination is extensive but remediation methods are improving, although "[t]here is general agreement among practicing remediation professionals ... that there is a substantial population of sites where, due to inherent geologic complexities, restoration within the next 50-100 years is likely not achievable."

Health risks from treatment

Bromides are a naturally occurring substance unearthed by fracking. Bromides can combine with organic matter to create brominated trihalomethanes -- carcinogens linked to both bladder and colon cancer. Brominated trihalomethanes can form when fracking wastewater is run through publicly owned or industrial treatment plants, enters rivers and streams, and is subsequently chlorinated for drinking water downstream.[10]

Inadequate treatment at a public or centralized treatment facility followed by discharge of treated water can pollute surface waters—including drinking water sources—downstream of the discharge.[6]

Underground injection

A 2012 ProPublica investigation into the threat to water supplies from underground injection of waste found the EPA has granted energy and mining companies exemptions to release toxic material in more than 1,500 places in aquifers across the country. The EPA may issue exemptions if aquifers are too remote, too dirty, or too deep to supply affordable drinking water. Applicants must persuade the government that the water is not being used as drinking water and that it never will be. However, EPA documents showed the agency has issued permits for portions of reservoirs that are in use, assuming contaminants will stay within the finite area exempted. EPA officials say the agency has quietly assembled an unofficial internal task force to re-evaluate its aquifer exemption policies.[11]

Injection into Class II disposal wells has been linked to a series of small earthquakes in Ohio[12] and the U.S. mid-continent.[13]

Dumping

On March 17, 2011 Pennsylvania Greene County resident Robert Allan Shipman and his company, Allan’s Waste Water Service Inc., were charged with illegally dumping millions of gallons of natural gas drilling wastewater across six counties in Pennsylvania from 2003-2009. The investigation of Shipman began after a client grew suspicious of illegal dumping when an in-house audit “revealed a large discrepancy in the amount of sludge received by Allan’s Waste Water and the amount of sludge disposed” by the company at treatment facilities. A review of reports by the Department of Environmental Protection confirmed that over 170,000 gallons of sludge were unaccounted for from June 2006 to the summer of 2007.[14]

Wastewater for livestock

Since the 1970s there has been an exemption to allow wastewater from oil and gas operations to be given to livestock in western states and reservations: "In the 1970s, when the Environmental Protection Agency was banning oil companies from dumping their wastewater, ranchers, especially in Wyoming, made a fuss. They argued that their livestock needs water, even dirty water," according to NPR. "So the EPA made an exception, a loophole, for the arid West. If oil companies demonstrate that ranchers or wildlife use the water, the companies can release it.... [O]ver time, states' rules have become stricter than the EPA's. Some states have all but outlawed dumping."[15]

Wastewater for livestock on Native reservations is determined by the EPA on a case-by-case basis. The wastewater contains toxic chemicals, including known carcinogens and radioactive material, according to documents obtained by NPR through Freedom of Information Act requests.[15] In August 2013 NPR reported that the EPA is proposing to let oil companies continue to dump polluted wastewater on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.[16]

Oil and gas spills

There are no national figures on oil and gas spills or enforcement. But where state records are available, they show agencies pursue fines against oil and gas producers in only a small minority of spill cases, according to an E&E investigation.[17]

Spills, blowouts, and other accidents rose 17 percent from 2010 to 2012 in states where comparable data was available. Drilling activity in those states went up 40 percent. Overall, E&E tallied over 6,000 spills in 2012, an average of more than 16 spills a day.[17]

Frack hits

"Frack hits" are upwellings of fracking water that occur when the fractures of two wells intersect, most commonly when the wells are less than 3,000 feet apart (most states allow adjacent horizontal well bores to be about 600 feet from each other.) The spills are notable because they occur from the fracking process itself, occurring when the water from a fracking job migrates toward and up another well that is not properly cemented. The worst-case scenario is the fluids enter groundwater aquifers, a risk that is higher when the frack hits "communicate" with older producing wells or abandoned wells.[18]

A 2013 review by EnergyWire of oil spill reports from various states, as well as phone interviews with regulators, revealed more than 10 cases of frack hits that have resulted in spills ranging from 300 gallons to 25,700 gallons. Frack hits are usually not reported to state regulators unless there is a spill of fracking fluid from the producing well. In such cases, the incidents are usually reported in state databases as production tank overflows due to an unexpected increase in pressure -- a "kick."[18]

Water contaminants from fracking

Chemicals

In April 2011, Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce released a report detailing the range of chemicals used in fracking. According to the report, the most widely used chemical in fracking fluids, methanol, is a hazardous air pollutant and is on the candidate list for potential regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Isopropyl alcohol, 2-butoxyethanol, and ethylene glycol were the other most widely used chemicals. The study noted that in some cases benzene (a known carcinogen), toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene are used. Many of the hydraulic fracturing fluids contain chemical components that are listed as “proprietary” or “trade secret.”[19]

Of the 300-odd compounds that private researchers and the Bureau of Land Management suspect are being used in fracking, 65 are listed as hazardous by the federal government. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was tasked with going through a public review of its new rules on hydraulic fracturing, and looked into reports that "gas companies use at least 260 types of chemicals, many of them toxic, like benzene." The chemicals tend to remain in the ground once the fracturing has been completed, raising fears about long-term contamination."[20]

Radiation

A February 2011 study in the NY Times, based upon thousands of internal documents obtained by The Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators, and drillers, found never-reported studies by the EPA and a confidential study by the drilling industry that both concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways. The Times found that of more than 179 wells producing wastewater with high levels of radiation, at least 116 reported levels of radium or other radioactive materials 100 times as high as the levels set by federal drinking-water standards. At least 15 wells produced wastewater carrying more than 1,000 times the amount of radioactive elements considered acceptable.[21]

A November 2010 study of fracking's effect on radioactive material in the Marcellus Shale by Tracy Bank, a geologist at the State University of New York in Buffalo, found that the process that released the gas also releases uranium trapped in the shale. She said additional study is needed to understand and predict the reaction in the shale to fracking.[22]

Methane

Methane in itself is not considered toxic by U.S. regulations, but concentrations of it in enclosed spaces raise the risk of explosions.[23]

The 2011 peer-reviewed study, "Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing," found "systematic evidence for methane contamination" of drinking water associated with shale gas extraction." Water wells half a mile from drilling operations were contaminated by methane at 17 times the rate of those farther from gas developments.[24]

A 2013 PNAS study analyzed 141 drinking water wells across northeastern Pennsylvania, and detected methane in 82% of drinking water samples, with average concentrations six times higher for homes less than 1 km from natural gas wells.[25]

According to Cornell University engineer Anthony Ingraffea, oil/gas industry studies show that five to seven per cent of all new oil and gas wells leak methane. As wells age, the percentage of methane leaks can increase to 30 or 50 per cent. The worst leaks are "deviated" or horizontal wells commonly used for hydraulic fracturing.[26]

Potential for contaminants to migrate into aquifers

A 2012 study published in GroundWater, "Potential Contaminant Pathways from Hydraulically Fractured Shale to Aquifers," used computer modeling and concluded that natural faults and fractures in the Marcellus Shale, exacerbated by the effects of fracking itself, could allow fracking fluids and its chemicals to reach the surface in as little as "tens of years" -- challenging the argument that impermeable layers of rock would keep fracking fluid, which contains benzene and other dangerous chemicals, safely locked nearly a mile below water supplies.[27] According to Barbara Arrindell, Director of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability (DCS): "hydraulic fracturing technique permanently shatters the underground geology and can connect gas bearing layers with water bearing layers."[28]

In June 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy said it will be testing whether hydraulic fracturing fluids can travel thousands of feet via geologic faults into drinking water aquifers close to the surface, as a fault from the Marcellus Shale could provide "a quick pathway for fracking fluids to migrate upwards." The experiment is being carried out at a site in Greene County in southwestern Pennsylvania and should be completed within a month.[29]

There is also the potential for water contamination through well casing failures. There are documented cases by the oil and gas industry of cement and steel casing problems with drilling wells. Some geologists argue the casings have relatively short life spans (maximum 100 years, before needing reinforcement) compared with the million year life span of the aquifers they are supposed to protect. In addition to the quality of the casing eroding over time, the fracturing process itself can result in cracking of the cement sheath.[30]

Air pollution

Carcinogens can also evaporate from frack wastewater and become air pollutants. When volatile organic chemicals, such as benzene and formaldehyde, combine with diesel exhaust from the heavy machinery and fleets of tanker trucks that haul the water to the well sites, it can create smog.[31]

Elevated ozone (smog) levels near drilling sites after increased oil/gas extraction have been found in Wyoming[32][33] and Utah.[34]

Investigations

AP

A 2014 AP investigation reviewed state data on water contamination allegations related to fracking that it was able to obtain from state agencies. Among the findings in the AP's review:[35]

  • Pennsylvania had confirmed at least 106 water-well contamination cases since 2005, out of more than 5,000 new wells;
  • Ohio had 37 complaints in 2010 and no confirmed contamination of water supplies; 54 complaints in 2011 and two confirmed cases of contamination; 59 complaints in 2012 and two confirmed contaminations; and 40 complaints for the first 11 months of 2013, with two confirmed contaminations and 14 still under investigation;
  • West Virginia had about 122 complaints that drilling contaminated water wells over the past four years, and in four cases the evidence was strong enough that the driller agreed to take corrective action;
  • A Texas spreadsheet contains more than 2,000 complaints, and 62 of those allege possible well-water contamination from oil and gas activity, although none have been confirmed.

New York

In New York, fracking wastewater from Marcellus Shale operations, such as in Pennsylvania, has been sent to at least five upstate New York landfills, even though none has a license to handle radioactive materials. Most shale formations contain naturally occurring radioactive material, or NORM. Although contamination levels vary widely from well to well, the Marcellus formation is suspected to be the most radioactive of all the nation’s shales.[36]

Officially, the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) allows Pennsylvania drilling waste at Hyland in Angelica, the Hakes Landfill in Painted Post, the Chemung Landfill near Elmira, Seneca Meadows Landfill in Waterloo and the Allied/BFI Waste Systems landfill in Niagara Falls. The agency argues that it is not authorized to regulate NORM unless it has been “processed and concentrated,” a phrase the DC Bureau says the agency interprets narrowly.[36]

In July 2013 a Syracuse laboratory pled guilty to one felony count of mail fraud in a case said to involve 3,300 falsified water tests. Some of the fracking wastewater was sent to Hyland Landfill in Angelica, about 80 miles south of Rochester.[36]

Pennsylvania

In 2010, Pro Publica reported that states were largely unprepared for dealing with the sudden surge of fracking wastewater. It pointed to Pennsylvania, which was dumping hundreds of millions of gallons of fracking wastewater into streams across the state, according to state records. Pro Publica reported that "while the [Pennsylvania] state Department of Environmental Protection called for the fluids to be sent through municipal treatment plants, those facilities are largely unable to remove the salts and minerals, also known as Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), from the waste."[37]

In 2011, the New York Times reported that 116 of 179 Marcellus wells in Pennsylvania had high levels of radiation in wastewater samples, and that wastewater discharges into rivers and streams were untested for radiation. The Times concluded that "More than 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater was produced by Pennsylvania wells [from 2008 to 2011], far more than has been previously disclosed. Most of this water — enough to cover Manhattan in three inches — was sent to treatment plants not equipped to remove many of the toxic materials in drilling waste." Under federal law, testing for radioactivity in drinking water is required only at drinking-water plants, but federal and state regulators have given nearly all drinking-water intake facilities in Pennsylvania permission to test only once every six or nine years.[38]

In 2011, the EPA began testing drinking water in 61 locations in Dimock, Pennsylvania, for possible fracking-related contamination of the water supply, in response to 2009 reports of methane leakage into the water supply.[39] On March 15, 2012, EPA released a statement saying that results from the first 11 homes sampled "did not show levels of contamination that could present a health concern," but that it will perform additional sampling at three homes currently receiving replacement water and two homes where arsenic was detected.[40]

In response, Water Defense and Gasland director Josh Fox went to Dimock for the test summaries and had them looked at by experts. The outside analysis found high levels of methane or chemicals in the water of all the families, Water Defense said. The water of four of the six families had methane levels in excess of Pennsylvania’s threshold for mitigation efforts. One of the reports “showed methane levels seven times” the state limit and nearly twice “the EPA’s less stringent standard,” according to ProPublica. The tests also showed that the methane was accompanied by the gas ethane, which the experts said indicated that the methane may have come from a deep underground reservoir that was drilled and not from surface sources.[23]

Among the other substances detected at low levels in Dimock’s water were a suite of chemicals known to come from some sort of hydrocarbon substance, such as diesel fuel or roofing tar. They include anthracene, fluoranthene, pyrene and benzo(a)pyrene – all substances described by a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as cancer-causing even in very small amounts. Another host of chemicals detected by the water testing has not been evaluated by the federal government for the risks they might pose to human health.[23]

Texas

In December 2010, the EPA determined that natural gas drilling by Range Resources near homes in Parker County, Texas caused or contributed to the contamination of at least two residential drinking water wells with "extremely high levels of methane," as well as benzene. The EPA ordered the company to step in immediately to stop the contamination, provide drinking water to the affected residents, and provide methane gas monitors to the homeowners. EPA also issued an imminent and substantial endangerment order under Section 1431 of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The EPA said it has data showing the presence of natural gas at the two wells, and ordered Range to investigate other nearby properties to determine if their drinking water is at risk.[41]

In a hearing called shortly thereafter, the Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas drilling in Texas, exonerated Range. One member of the commission called EPA's action "a frontal assault on domestic natural gas production." EPA pressed ahead in federal court, but before the trial court ruled, an element of the case went to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans.[42]

In March 2012, the EPA withdrew its order requiring Range Resources to provide water for the two North Texas families. The agency joined with Range seeking dismissal of the case in the Court of Appeals, stating that its decision allowed the agency to shift the focus “away from litigation and toward a joint effort on the science and safety of energy extraction.”[43] In a letter sent as part of the dismissal agreement, Range committed to testing 20 wells in Parker County four times in the next year.[44]

West Virginia

Although Wyoming is often reported to be the first case of water pollution linked to fracking documented by the EPA, the Times reported in 2011 that "a 1987 report to Congress by the Environmental Protection Agency that deals with waste from the exploration, development and production of oil, natural gas and geothermal energy ... states that hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, can cause groundwater contamination. It cites as an example a case in which hydraulic fracturing fluids contaminated a water well in West Virginia. The report also describes the difficulties that sealed court settlements created for investigators." The report concluded that hydraulic fracturing fluids or gel used by Kaiser Exploration and Mining Company contaminated a well roughly 600 feet away on the property of James Parsons in Jackson County, West Virginia. The report contradicts prior statements by the oil and gas industry that there had never been a documented case of contamination, helping the industry avoid federal regulations.[45]

Wyoming

Reuters reported that "the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found 14 "contaminants of concern" in 11 private wells in the central Wyoming farming community of Pavillion, an area with about 250 gas wells.[46]

In its 2011 report of the same study, the EPA said it identified numerous fracking chemicals in Pavillion's water: benzene was found at 50 times safe levels, along with other hazardous chemicals, methane, diesel fuel, and heavy metals - in both groundwater and deep wells.[47]

In June 2013, the EPA dropped plans to have outside experts review its draft report suggesting fracking played a role in groundwater pollution in Pavillion, and the agency no longer plans to write a final report on its research. Instead, the EPA said state officials would lead further investigation into pollution in the Pavillion area, including ways to make sure people there have clean drinking water. The state will issue a final report in late 2014.[48]

EPA cedes investigations to states

Between 2012 and 2013, the EPA dropped its investigations into water contamination from shale drilling in Dimock, PA, Parker County, TX, and Pavillion, WY, ceding further investigation to state officials. Critics said the trend "calls into serious question the agency’s commitment to conducting an impartial, comprehensive assessment of the risks fracking presents to drinking water," slated for release in 2014.[49]

Wastewater regulations

The Clean Water Act

The federal Clean Water Act regulates the treatment and discharge of shale gas wastewater into surface water bodies.[50] Under the Act, facilities must obtain permits if they intend to discharge shale gas wastewater or any of its by-products into a surface water body. These permits contain limitations on pollutants that may be discharged in the wastewater.[6]

Federal regulations prohibit the direct discharge of wastewater pollutants from natural gas production. Many hydraulic fracturing operators therefore send wastewater to treatment facilities that are authorized to discharge under Clean Water Act permits issued by the states under authority delegated by the EPA. A 2012 NRDC report note that "the Clean Water Act regulatory program is not comprehensive; for example, there are no pretreatment requirements specifically for shale gas wastewater, and discharge standards are out of date," allowing for discharge of pollutants "in amounts and concentrations inadequate to protect water quality."[6]

States may also establish requirements for the discharges that are stricter than the federal standards.[6]

Safe Drinking Water Act

The federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) regulates the underground injection of wastewater.[51] All underground injections are prohibited unless authorized under this program. Under the program, the EPA groups underground injection wells into five classes, with each class subject to distinct requirements and standards. Because of a regulatory determination by the EPA not to classify shale gas wastewater as “hazardous”, it is not required to be injected into Class I wells for hazardous waste, and is therefore often injected into Class II wells, which are subject to less stringent requirements than Class I hazardous waste wells. Either states or the federal EPA can take primacy in overseeing the program.[6]

The injection of fluids for the actual hydraulic fracturing process itself is exempted from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Therefore, if shale gas wastewater is managed or treated for the sole purpose of reuse for further hydraulic fracturing, it is not subject to federal regulation, although states can have their own regulations that apply to the reuse of shale gas wastewater.[6]

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

Oil and gas wastes are currently exempt from the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA),[52] which generally regulates the handling and disposal of waste. Due to this exemption, natural gas operators transporting shale gas wastewater are not considered to be transporting or receiving “hazardous” wastes, and thus do not need to meet the cradle-to-grave safeguards established by RCRA regulations. In the absence of federal regulations, states regulate the handling, storage, and transport of shale gas wastewater, including residuals.[6]

Some states allow for the storage or disposal of shale gas wastewater in open impoundments. There has been struggles about the power of states versus municipalities regarding fracking waste storage: Pennsylvania's Act 13, for example, limits the ability of municipalities to enact their own regulations regarding the siting of impoundments; several municipalities are challenging the law in court.[6]

The land application of shale gas wastewater is also regulated primarily at the state level. Some states, such as Pennsylvania, issue permits authorizing land application of fracking waste, such as for roadway prewetting, anti-icing, and deicing purposes, as long as the brines meet certain pollutant concentration limits. In some other states, however, the road spreading of shale gas wastewater is prohibited.[6]

Chemical disclosure

Nine states and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (for federal lands) have various chemical disclosure rules: Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wyoming.

Most of the rules allow exclusions for "proprietary trade secrets";[53] the loopholes for trade secrets have been linked to model legislation put forth by ExxonMobil through ALEC.[54]

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering introducing rules that would force companies to disclose chemicals they use in fracking operations. Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates, a fracking trade group, has stated that it will fight disclosure rules, arguing that such rules violate trade secret laws.[55]

Resources

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Colborn, Theo et al., “Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective.” International Journal of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment. September-October 2011, p. 11.
  2. "Chemicals in Natural Gas Operations: Introduction," TEDX, accessed April 2012.
  3. Abraham Lustgarten, "Buried Secrets: Is Natural Gas Drilling Endangering U.S. Water Supplies?" ProPublica, Nov. 13, 2008.
  4. Abraham Lustgarten, "Buried Secrets: Is Natural Gas Drilling Endangering U.S. Water Supplies?" ProPublica, Nov. 13, 2008.
  5. Ian Urbina, "A Tainted Water Well, and Concern There May Be More," NY Times, Aug. 3, 2011.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 6.9 Rebecca Hammer, Jeanne VanBriesen, and Larry Levine, "In Fracking's Wake: New Rules are Needed to Protect Our Health and Environment from Contaminated Wastewater," Natural Resources Defense Council, May 2012 report.
  7. Rebecca Hammer, Jeanne VanBriesen, and Larry Levine, "In Fracking's Wake: New Rules are Needed to Protect Our Health and Environment from Contaminated Wastewater," Natural Resources Defense Council, May 2012 report.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Ian Urbina, "Wastewater Recycling No Cure-All in Gas Process," NY Times, March 1, 2011.
  9. Jonathan Thompson,"Oil and gas water use: the real issues," High Country News, Feb. 14, 2012.
  10. "Fracking: The New Global Water Crisis," Food and Water Watch Report, March 2012.
  11. Abrahm Lustgarten, "Poisoning the Well: How the Feds Let Industry Pollute the Nation’s Underground Water Supply," ProPublica, Dec. 11, 2012.
  12. "ODNR Releases Preliminary Report on Youngstown Area Seismic Activity," ODNR, March 9, 2012.
  13. USGS, "Are Seismicity Rate Changes in the Midcontinent Natural or Manmade?" USGS 2012 Report.
  14. Aaron Skirboll, "Toxic Wastewater Dumped in Streets and Rivers at Night: Gas Profiteers Getting Away With Shocking Environmental Crimes," AlterNet, August 15, 2012.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Elizabeth Shogren, "Loophole Lets Toxic Oil Water Flow Over Indian Land," NPR, November 15, 2012.
  16. Elizabeth Shogren, "EPA Wants To Allow Continued Wastewater Dumping In Wyoming," NPR, August 7, 2013.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Mike Soraghan, "Many mishaps among drillers, but few fines," E&E, July 15, 2013.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Gayathri Vaidyanathan, "When 2 wells meet, spills can often follow," E&E, August 5, 2013.
  19. "Committee Democrats Release New Report Detailing Hydraulic Fracturing Products," Committee on Energy and Commerce, Apr 16, 2011.
  20. Jad Mouawad and Clifford Krauss, [1] "Dark Side of a Natural Gas Boom," New York Times, Dec. 8, 2009.
  21. Ian Urbina, "Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers," NY Times, February 26, 2011.
  22. Don Hopey and Daniel Malloy, "Remember wells almost dug in Collins? Radiation in fracking fluid is a new concern," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 3, 2011.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Neela Banerjee, "Clouded readings of EPA study of Dimock water, featured in 'Gasland'" LA Times, March 21, 2012.
  24. Stephen G. Osborna, Avner Vengoshb, Nathaniel R. Warnerb, and Robert B. Jacksona, "Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing," PNAS, April 14, 2011.
  25. Robert B. Jacksona, Avner Vengosha, Thomas H. Darraha, Nathaniel R. Warnera, Adrian Downa, Robert J. Poredac, Stephen G. Osbornd, Kaiguang Zhaoa, and Jonathan D. Karra, "Increased stray gas abundance in a subset of drinking water wells near Marcellus shale gas extraction," PNAS, June 3, 2013.
  26. Andrew Nikiforuk, "Shale Gas: How Often Do Fracked Wells Leak?" The Tyee, Jan. 9, 2013.
  27. Tom Myers, "Potential Contaminant Pathways from Hydraulically Fractured Shale to Aquifers," Groundwater, April 17, 2012.
  28. "The Facts on Fracking: Interview with Barbara Arrindell of DCS," Huffington Post, April 30, 2012.
  29. "US DOE testing for links between faults, groundwater pollution," Platts, June 8, 2012.
  30. Christine Shearer "Fracking Fluids Could Contaminate Freshwater Aquifers, Says Study," Truthout, May 18, 2012.
  31. "Fracking: The New Global Water Crisis," Food and Water Watch Report, March 2012.
  32. "Wyoming's natural gas boom comes with smog attached" Mead Gruver, Associated Press, March 9, 2011.
  33. "Wyoming's smog exceeds Los Angeles' due to gas drilling" USA Today, March 9, 2011.
  34. Mark Jaffe, "Like Wyoming, Utah finds high wintertime ozone pollution near oil, gas wells," The Denver Post, February 26, 2012.
  35. Kevin Begos, "4 states confirm water pollution from fracking," AP, Jan 5, 2013.
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 Peter Mantius, "New York Imports Pennsylvania’s Radioactive Fracking Waste Despite Falsified Water Tests," DC Bureau, August 14th, 2013.
  37. [2], "Pennsylvania’s Drilling Wastewater Released to Streams, Some Unaccounted For." Kusnetz, Nicholas. ProPublica. Jan. 5, 2010.
  38. Ian Urbina, "Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers," NY Times, February 26, 2011.
  39. Sharon Guynup, "The Fracking Industry Buys Congress," ENS, Feb. 16, 2012.
  40. Laura Legere, "EPA not yet 'drawing conclusions' about full Dimock picture," The Times Tribune, March 17, 2012.
  41. "EPA Issues an Imminent and Substantial Endangerment Order to Protect Drinking Water in Southern Parker County," EPA, December 2010.
  42. Mike Soraghan, "EPA's retreat in Range case is latest score for industry, states," E&E, April 2, 2012.
  43. "EPA Backs Down From Fracking Contamination Order" Associated Press, March 30, 2012.
  44. Mike Soraghan, "EPA's retreat in Range case is latest score for industry, states," E&E, April 2, 2012.
  45. Ian Urbina, "A Tainted Water Well, and Concern There May Be More," NY Times, Aug. 3, 2011.
  46. [3] "Q+A: Environmental fears over U.S. shale gas drilling," Reuters, Dec. 23, 2009.
  47. Sharon Guynup, "The Fracking Industry Buys Congress," ENS, Feb. 16, 2012.
  48. Mead Gruver and Ben NEary, "Some Residents Oppose Wyo.-EPA Frack Study Deal," AP, June 20, 2013.
  49. Kate Sinding, "Why Would EPA Hide Info on Fracking & Water Contamination in Dimock?" NRDC, July 28, 2013.
  50. Renee Lewis Kosnik, "The Oil and Gas Industry’s Exclusions and Exemptions to Major Environmental Statutes," Oil and Gas Accountability Project, 2007 Report.
  51. Renee Lewis Kosnik, "The Oil and Gas Industry’s Exclusions and Exemptions to Major Environmental Statutes," Oil and Gas Accountability Project, 2007 Report.
  52. Renee Lewis Kosnik, "The Oil and Gas Industry’s Exclusions and Exemptions to Major Environmental Statutes," Oil and Gas Accountability Project, 2007 Report.
  53. "Fracking Chemical Disclosure Rules," Inside Climate News chart at ProPublica, accessed April 2012.
  54. Mike McIntire, "Conservative Nonprofit Acts as a Stealth Business Lobbyist," New York Times, April 21, 2012.
  55. "Fracking Companies Fight EPA's Proposed Chemical Disclosure Rules" Rebecca Trager, Scientific America, October 1, 2014.

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