EPA announces plans to regulate wastewater from hydraulic fracturing

Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its plans to develop standards for wastewater discharges produced by natural gas extraction from underground coal-bed and shale formations. Although a great deal of wastewater is reused or re-injected, the EPA says, there is some that needs to be disposed of. Right now, wastewater is prohibited from being directly discharged to U.S. waterways. In their statement, the EPA said that it will “consider standards based on demonstrated, economically achievable technologies, for shale gas wastewater that must be met before going to a treatment facility.”

IPAA immediately sent out a press release with IPAA President and CEO Barry Russell’s comments on the announcement. From the press release:

“We agree with Administrator Jackson that the needs of our energy future should be met safely and responsibly. America’s wastewater has been managed under the federal Clean Water Act in partnership with state regulators since 1972.  EPA’s action to develop new standards for these discharges is an ongoing part of its Clean Water Act responsibilities.  The new guidelines EPA develops will then be used by states to regulate specific wastewater discharges. 

“We stand ready to work with EPA and other stakeholders on the development of these guidelines. As the EPA notes, wastewater from shale gas development cannot be discharged into waterways, and the underground disposal of wastewater has been federally regulated by the EPA for nearly four decades.  Moreover, no wastewater resulting from shale gas development is currently discharged untreated into surface waters.”

Essentially, the press release clarified how wastewater has been already regulated by the states since 1972, through federal delegation under the Clean Water Act. It also highlighted how the oil and gas industry ”continues to increase the amount of wastewater that it recycles, improving from near zero percent just a few years ago to nearly 100 percent in the Marcellus shale.”

Russell’s comments were immediately picked up in The Hill, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, The Olympian, ProPublica, Gas Daily, E&E News, and the Kansas City Star.