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Enviros Sue EPA, Seek Tougher Regulations For Oil, NatGas Waste Disposal

A group of environmental and community organizations filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wednesday seeking stricter federal regulations for the disposal of waste from oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, asserts that EPA has "failed to meet continuing nondiscretionary duties under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act...to review and revise regulations and guidelines to keep up with this growing source of wastes and the threats these wastes pose to human health and the environment."

The plaintiffs in the case include the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Earthworks, the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, the West Virginia Surface Owners' Rights Organization, the Responsible Drilling Alliance and the Sun Juan Citizens Alliance.

The groups are urging EPA to ban the practice of using briny waste from oil and gas development to salt roads or fields, citing concerns about runoff into streams. They also called for EPA to establish federal standards for disposal of drilling and hydraulic fracturing waste into lined ponds or landfills.

“Updated rules for oil and gas wastes are almost 30 years overdue, and we need them now more than ever,” said Adam Kron, senior attorney at EIP. “Each well now generates millions of gallons of wastewater and hundreds of tons of solid wastes, and yet EPA’s inaction has kept the most basic, inadequate rules in place. The public deserves better than this.”

“Waste from the oil and gas industry is very often toxic and should be treated that way," added Amy Mall, NRDC senior policy analyst.

The practice of using underground injection wells for disposal of wastewater from oil and gas production has come under scrutiny in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas.

In Ohio, state lawmakers recently proposed banning injection wells (see Shale DailyJan. 20), while a county-wide ban in Fayette County, WV, has drawn legal challenges (see Shale DailyMarch 29;Jan. 26). Local bans on injection wells have also been challenged in Pennsylvania (see Shale DailyApril 5).

Oklahoma regulators have taken a number of steps in recent months to crack down on underground injection wells that have been linked to an increase in seismic activity in the state (see Shale DailyApril 21).

Seismic activity in Texas has also been linked to underground injection wells (see Shale DailyApril 14).

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