GAO seeks more drinking water safeguards
A congressional watchdog wants the Environmental Protection Agency to better protect the nation's drinking water when it comes to risks posed by disposing of wastewater from the oil and gas industry deep underground.
The Government Accountability Office on Monday released a report recommending the EPA look at emerging risks such as earthquakes, the use of diesel in fracking and overpressurization of wells, and how agency safeguards stack up against such risks.
The 103-page GAO report recommends that the EPA ensure it can oversee and enforce programs nationwide involving Underground Injection Control (UIC) class II wells, including one the EPA oversees in Pennsylvania.
“It's the tip of the iceberg in many ways,” Pittsburgh attorney Emily Collins said of the report and issues surrounding deep injection wells. She represents clients fighting a Clearfield County company that wants to inject drilling wastewater into the ground. “It's a complicated mix of issues.”
A GAO representative did not respond to a message seeking comment. An EPA spokeswoman referred to a letter Acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner wrote in June to GAO officials.
“The EPA is well aware of these issues and has undertaken a number of activities over recent years to proactively address them,” Stoner wrote, noting that in 2010 the agency established safeguards for pressure buildup in wells and this year created permitting guidance for the use of diesel fuels in fracking activities.
A State-EPA UIC National Technical Workgroup report, which contains recommendations for reducing induced-seismic risks, is undergoing independent scientific peer review, Stoner said.
In April, geologists in Ohio linked earthquakes in the Appalachian foothills to hydraulic fracturing. Five small tremors were recorded in March near Youngstown. The scientists found that the injection of sand, water and fracking chemicals in the Utica shale likely increased pressure on a small, unknown fault.
Earlier studies linked earthquakes in the region to deep-injection wells used for disposing of wastewater from the fracking process.
Better communication and data management between Washington headquarters and EPA regions are challenges the agency recognizes, Stoner acknowledged.
At least 2 billion gallons of fluids are injected into more than 172,000 wells across the country each day to enhance oil and gas production or to dispose of waste returned to the surface during oil and gas extraction, the GAO reported.
Regulations to protect drinking water resources apply to those wells, though the GAO noted that EPA grant money for UIC class II programs has remained at $11 million for more than a decade.
The report examined activity in eight states, including Pennsylvania, from 2008-12. No allegations of contamination or significant noncompliance violations were reported for the 1,865 class II wells here during that period, according to the report.
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Highway Patrol: 8 dead, 10 injured when Florida van crashes
- Global warming is slowing down the circulation of the oceans — with potentially dire consequences
- JetBlue computer outage causes delays for passengers
- Gun used by agent who helped jail Capone headed to museum
- Despite high gas costs, Northeast resistant to pipelines
- Santorum: Obama opposition to fossil fuels ‘quasi-religious’
- Run from Cuba, Americans cling to claims for seized property
- Pence: ‘Not going to change’ religious freedom law
- Doctors push end-of-life care talks
- 7 shot at Florida spring-break house party
- A bipartisan push on toxic chemicals makes some Democrats fume