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EPA Issues Draft Guidance on Diesel Use in Fracking

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday released a draft of its long-awaited guidance to oil and natural gas producers on the use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

The guidance is meant to clarify the requirements for producers that are seeking underground injection control (UIC) permits for the use of diesel as a fracking fluid.

"The draft guidance outlines for EPA permit writers, where EPA is the permitting authority, requirements for diesel fuels used for hydraulic fracturing wells, technical recommendations for permitting those wells, and a description of diesel fuels for EPA underground injection control permitting," EPA said.

The 55-page draft includes recommendations on how UIC permit writers should implement requirements related to permit duration and well closure, permit application and review, area of review and well construction, including mechanical integrity testing, financial responsibility and public notification.

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) exempts fracking fluids (with the exception of diesel fuel fluids) from federal regulation and keeps regulation in state hands.

EPA will take public comment on the draft guidance for 60 days upon publication in the Federal Register. In the meantime, "decisions about permitting hydraulic fracturing operations that use diesel fuels will be made on a case-by-case basis, considering the facts and circumstances of the specific injection activity and applicable statutes, regulations and case law, and will not cite this draft guidance as a basis for decision," EPA said.

An inquiry by House Democrats, the results of which were released last year, found that oil and natural gas companies injected more than 32 million gallons of diesel fuel or fracking fluids containing diesel fuel in wells in 19 states between 2005 and 2009 (see Daily GPI, Feb. 1, 2011).

In December a bipartisan coalition of four senators sent a letter to EPA expressing their "growing concerns" about the broad approach that the agency seems to be taking to regulate fluids used in fracking, not just diesel fuels (see Daily GPI, Dec. 23, 2011).

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