UNCONVENTIONAL OIL AND GAS DEVELOPMENT Key Environmental and Public Health Requirements

www.gao.gov/assets/650/647782.pdf.

September 2012

GAO-12-874

United States Government Accountability Office

GAOUnited States Government Accountability Office

Highlights of GAO-12-874, a report to congressional requesters

summary chart on pg 51 of regulatory exemptions for O and G development

September 2012

UNCONVENTIONAL OIL AND GAS DEVELOPMENT

Key Environmental and Public Health Requirements

Why GAO Did This Study

Technological improvements have

allowed the extraction of oil and natural

gas from onshore unconventional

reservoirs such as shale, tight

sandstone, and coalbed methane

formations. Specifically, advances in

horizontal drilling techniques combined

with hydraulic fracturing (pumping

water, sand, and chemicals into wells

to fracture underground rock

formations and allow oil or gas to flow)

have increased domestic development

of oil and natural gas from these

unconventional reservoirs. The

increase in such development has

raised concerns about potential

environmental and public health effects

and whether existing federal and state

environmental and public health

requirements are adequate.

GAO was asked to review

environmental and public health

requirements for unconventional oil

and gas development and (1) describe

federal requirements; (2) describe

state requirements; (3) describe

additional requirements that apply on

federal lands; and (4) identify

challenges, if any, that federal and

state agencies reported facing in

regulating oil and gas development

from unconventional reservoirs. GAO

identified and analyzed federal laws,

state laws in six selected states

(Colorado, North Dakota, Ohio,

Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wyoming),

and interviewed federal and state

officials and representatives from

industry, environmental, and public

health organizations.

GAO is not making recommendations.

In commenting on the report, agencies

provided information on recent

regulatory activities and technical

comments.

What GAO Found

As with conventional oil and gas development, requirements from eight federal

environmental and public health laws apply to unconventional oil and gas

development. For example, the Clean Water Act (CWA) regulates discharges of

pollutants into surface waters. Among other things, CWA requires oil and gas

well site operators to obtain permits for discharges of produced water—which

includes fluids used for hydraulic fracturing, as well as water that occurs naturally

in oil- or gas-bearing formations—to surface waters. In addition, the Resource

Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) governs the management and disposal

of hazardous wastes, among other things. However, key exemptions or

limitations in regulatory coverage affect the applicability of six of these

environmental and public health laws. For example, CWA also generally

regulates stormwater discharges by requiring that facilities associated with

industrial and construction activities get permits, but the law and its regulations

largely exempt oil and gas well sites. In addition, oil and gas exploration and

production wastes are exempt from RCRA hazardous waste requirements based

on a regulatory determination made by the Environmental Protection Agency

(EPA) in 1988. EPA generally retains its authorities under federal environmental

and public health laws to respond to environmental contamination.

All six states in GAO’s review implement additional requirements governing

activities associated with oil and gas development and have updated some

aspects of their requirements in recent years. For example, all six states have

requirements related to how wells are to be drilled and how casing—steel pipe

within the well—is to be installed and cemented in place, though the specifics of

their requirements vary. The states also have requirements related to well site

selection and preparation, which may include baseline testing of water wells

before drilling or stormwater management.

Oil and gas development on federal lands must comply with applicable federal

environmental and state laws, as well as additional requirements. These

requirements are the same for conventional and unconventional oil and gas

development. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees oil and gas

development on approximately 700 million subsurface acres. BLM regulations for

leases and permits govern similar types of activities as state requirements, such

as requirements for how operators drill the well and install casing. BLM recently

proposed new regulations for hydraulic fracturing of wells on public lands.

Federal and state agencies reported several challenges in regulating oil and gas

development from unconventional reservoirs. EPA officials reported that

conducting inspection and enforcement activities and having limited legal

authorities are challenges. For example, conducting inspection and enforcement

activities is challenging due to limited information, such as data on groundwater

quality prior to drilling. EPA officials also said that the exclusion of exploration

and production waste from hazardous waste regulations under RCRA

significantly limits EPA’s role in regulating these wastes. In addition, BLM and

state officials reported that hiring and retaining staff and educating the public are

challenges. For example, officials from several states and BLM said that retaining

employees is difficult because qualified staff are frequently offered more money

for private sector positions within the oil and gas industry.

View GAO-12-874. For more information,

contact David C. Trimble at (202) 512-3841 or

trimbled@gao.gov. Page i GAO-12-874 Unconventional Oil and Gas Development

Letter 1

summary chart on pdf pg 51 (p. 44 printed text) of regulatory exemptions for O and G development

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

;

Table 2: Exemptions or Limitations in Regulatory Coverage for the Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Industry in Six
Environmental Laws
Law Description of exemption or limitation in regulatory coverage Source
Type of program related to
exemption or limitation in
regulatory coverage
Preventive Response
SDWA Hydraulic fracturing with fluids other than diesel fuel does not require a
UIC permit.
Statutory (2005) X
CWA Federal stormwater permits are not required for uncontaminated
stormwater at oil and gas construction sites or at oil and gas well sites.
Statutory (1987,
2005) X
CAA Emissions of hazardous air pollutants from oil and gas wells and their
associated equipment may not be aggregated together or with those of
pipeline compressors or pump stations to determine whether they are
a major source.
Statutory (1990)
X
In the Risk Management Program, many naturally-occurring
hydrocarbons in oil and gas are not included in the threshold
determination of whether a facility should be regulated.
Regulatory/EPA
decision (1988) X
RCRA Oil and gas exploration and production wastes are not regulated as
hazardous waste.
Regulatory/EPA
decision (1988) X
CERCLA Liability and reporting provisions do not apply to injections of fluids
authorized by state law for production, enhanced recovery, or
produced water.
Statutory (1980)
X
EPCRA Oil and gas well operations are not required to report releases of listed
chemicals to the TRI.
Regulatory/EPA
decision (1997) X
Source: GAO.
Note: In some cases, states may have requirements in these areas. State requirements are
discussed in the next section of this report.

B

Medical Society of the State of New York passed a Resolution on Radon

The Medical Society of the State of New York passed a Resolution on Radon at their state-wide annual meeting yesterday, April 12, 2014 in Tarrytown, NY. It reads:

RESOLVED, That the Medical Society of the State of New York support policy that limits exposure to radon and its decay products which are known to cause primary lung cancer in non-smokers and to potentiate the likelihood of lung cancer in smokers; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Medical Society of the State of New York support legislation the protects the public health by ensuring that New York State is committed to reducing sources of excess radon emission, and monitoring radon gas exposure levels to confirm that these radon gas levels do not exceed the recommended levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

In the past MSSNY has endorsed resolutions calling for moratoriums on gas drilling in tight shale deposits. This year the concern shifted to the radioactive elements found the gas itself. While the concern over radon is much broader then a concern over gas drilling, the physicians clearly had the radioactivity associated with gas drilling in tight sale deposits in mind when they passed their resolution. Some of the statements leading to the resolution proper make mention of the radon “inextricably linked” with the methane from the tight shale deposits, especially in the northeast. Others pointed to the potential exposure through the delivery systems, the decay products, and the shorter transit times.

Some examples:

WHEREAS, there is no safe exposure level of radon for public health protection

WHEREAS, Radon, which originates naturally in bedrock and shale, is inextricably combined with other natural gases sequestered in these subterranean reserves, and is therefore extracted in combination with natural gas

WHEREAS, due to geographic proximity of New York State to the Marcellus Shale region, there is significantly shorter transit time through local regional pipeline networks transporting radon-laced natural gas to NYS natural gas consumers thus resulting in the delivery of natural gas containing much higher concentrations of radon

As the threat of actual gas drilling subsides in the State, the public heath threats associated with the growing gas drilling infrastructure are now on the organization’s radar. Stay tuned.

 

Chris

Chris W. Burger

110 Walters Road

Whitney Point, NY 13862

(607) 692-3442

cwburger@frontiernet.net

AIR POLLUTION: Oil and gas boom, budget woes strain EPA’s monitoring network — Monday, March 31, 2014 — www.eenews.net

AIR POLLUTION: Oil and gas boom, budget woes strain EPA’s monitoring network — Monday, March 31, 2014 — www.eenews.net.

Fracking The Eagle Ford Shale: Big Oil And Bad Air On The Texas Prairie

http://

Fracking The Eagle Ford Shale: Big Oil And Bad Air On The Texas Prairie from Weather Films on Vimeo.

from Weather Films on Vimeo.

Gripping Report and Film Reveal How Fracking Boom Destroys Texans’ Lives

Brandon Baker | February 18, 2014 11:29 am | Comments
986 3 32 1273
Shelby Buehring was born in South Texas and bought a home there in 1995, but he has grown to hate the area.

That’s because the area’s fracking boom caused his wife, Lynn, to depend on an inhaler to help her breathe properly amid an atmosphere rife with thick black smoke, strong stenches and other environmental effects from fracking near their Karnes County home.

The Buehrings are two of several people the Center for Public Integrity, InsideClimate News and The Weather Channel spoke to as part of a most-gripping report and short film package released Tuesday that exposes the impact of fracking as well as any on record.

“There’s nothing we can do,” Shelby Buehring said of living near the Eagle Ford Shale play. “Nobody is listening to us.

“They’re not going to stop, so we have to live with it or leave … This is my home, and I hate it here.”

http://vimeo.com/86979931 #Vimeo #fracking

The Eagle Ford Shale play is a 400-mile-long, 50-mile-wide fracking site that extends from Leon County, in northeast Texas, to the southwestern Mexican border. As impactful as the report and short film’s interviews are, the lack of oversight and care for the residents is downright appalling. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which regulates most air emissions, has fined just two companies in the oil and gas industry from Jan. 1, 2010 to Nov. 19, 2013, despite 164 documented violations.

There were 284 complaints filed during that time, but they clearly fell on deaf ears.

“I believe if you’re anti-oil and gas, you’re anti-Texas,” state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, a Republican from Central Texas, said during a panel discussion in September, according to the three reporting agencies.

Those who have studied the fracking boom there aren’t surprised by its unfortunate effects.

“Energy wins practically every time,” Robert Forbis Jr., an assistant professor of political science at Texas Tech University, said in the report. “It seems cynical to say that, but that’s how states see it—promote economic development and minimize risk factors.”

The report and film made waves across the country Tuesday for its revealing reporting.

“The 8-month ‘Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale’ investigation by Pulitzer Prize winning journalists reveals that fracking is literally poisoning the air children and families breathe,” said John Armstrong of Frack Action and New Yorkers Against Fracking. “Polluted with toxic chemicals like hydrogen sulfide and benzene, air poisoned by fracking is entering homes, daycare centers and schools throughout entire regions.

“This investigation and the hundreds of complaints build on an already significant body of science showing that fracking inherently poisons the air and threatens people’s health.”

Other shocking findings about the Eagle Ford Shale area and Texas, discovered by Inside Climate News, the Center for Public Integrity and The Weather Channel, include:

Thousands of oil and gas facilities, including six of the nine production sites near the Buehrings’ house, are allowed to self-audit their emissions without reporting them to the TCEQ.
There are only five permanent air monitors installed in the 20,000-square-mile region of Eagle Ford.
Since 2009, there has been a 100-percent statewide increase in unplanned toxic air releases associated with oil and gas production. They are known as emission events and typically caused by human errors or faulty equipment.
The Texas legislature has cut the TCEQ’s budget by one-third since the Eagle Ford boom began—from $555 million in 2008 to $372 million in 2014. The state also cut funding for air monitoring equipment by $621,000 during the same period.
“I can control what my kids eat, I can control what goes on their skin, but I can’t control the air that’s coming across from the neighbors,” said Amber Lyssy, an area farmer who was also interviewed.

Another resident interviewed by the entities, Cynthia Dupnik, decided to keep a daily log of what she and her family smells near their home. She said it was important to take note because new symptoms and side effects continually arise as the oil boom continues on. Nose bleeds and sores were among the effects her family experienced.

“There’s something wrong about that picture, especially when we didn’t have it before,” she said.

The report points out that while states are responsible for enforcing the federal Clean Air Act, they are also largely responsible for regulating fracking on their grounds.

The reporters said the TCEQ refused telephone interview requests for eight months. A representative finally responded with an email stating that the air pollutants in the Eagle Shale Ford area have not been a concern “from a long-term or short-term perspective.”

The interviewed residents told a much different story.

“The chemicals in the air, we can’t get away from them because we live here,” Lyssy said.

“We’re here 24/7. We don’t have another home to go to.”

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

topnewsbanner13

Raising health and air quality concerns in Texas’ fracking frontier

Raising health and air quality concerns in Texas’ fracking frontier.

Key gas drilling health study collecting Pa. data – SFGate

Key gas drilling health study collecting Pa. data – SFGate.

Environmental Outlook: Dan Fagin: “Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation” (Rebroadcast) | The Diane Rehm Show from WAMU and NPR

Environmental Outlook: Dan Fagin: “Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation” (Rebroadcast) | The Diane Rehm Show from WAMU and NPR.

Lessons for shale gas extraction, waste treatment.

Book Description

Release date: March 19, 2013 | ISBN-10: 055380653X | ISBN-13: 978-0553806533 | Edition: 1St Edition
“A thrilling journey through the twists and turns of cancer epidemiology, Toms River is essential reading for our times. Dan Fagin handles topics of great complexity with the dexterity of a scholar, the honesty of a journalist, and the dramatic skill of a novelist.”—Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

The riveting true story of a small town ravaged by industrial pollution, Toms River melds hard-hitting investigative reporting, a fascinating scientific detective story, and an unforgettable cast of characters into a sweeping narrative in the tradition of A Civil Action, The Emperor of All Maladies, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

One of New Jersey’s seemingly innumerable quiet seaside towns, Toms River became the unlikely setting for a decades-long drama that culminated in 2001 with one of the largest legal settlements in the annals of toxic dumping. A town that would rather have been known for its Little League World Series champions ended up making history for an entirely different reason: a notorious cluster of childhood cancers scientifically linked to local air and water pollution. For years, large chemical companies had been using Toms River as their private dumping ground, burying tens of thousands of leaky drums in open pits and discharging billions of gallons of acid-laced wastewater into the town’s namesake river.

In an astonishing feat of investigative reporting, prize-winning journalist Dan Fagin recounts the sixty-year saga of rampant pollution and inadequate oversight that made Toms River a cautionary example for fast-growing industrial towns from South Jersey to South China. He tells the stories of the pioneering scientists and physicians who first identified pollutants as a cause of cancer, and brings to life the everyday heroes in Toms River who struggled for justice: a young boy whose cherubic smile belied the fast-growing tumors that had decimated his body from birth; a nurse who fought to bring the alarming incidence of childhood cancers to the attention of authorities who didn’t want to listen; and a mother whose love for her stricken child transformed her into a tenacious advocate for change.

A gripping human drama rooted in a centuries-old scientific quest, Toms River is a tale of dumpers at midnight and deceptions in broad daylight, of corporate avarice and government neglect, and of a few brave individuals who refused to keep silent until the truth was exposed.

Praise for Toms River

“It’s high time a book did for epidemiology what Jon Krakauer’s best-selling Into Thin Air did for mountain climbing: transform a long sequence of painfully plodding steps and missteps into a narrative of such irresistible momentum that the reader not only understands what propels enthusiasts forward, but begins to strain forward as well, racing through the pages to get to the heady views at the end. And such is the power of Dan Fagin’s Toms River, surely a new classic of science reporting . . . a sober story of probability and compromise, laid out with the care and precision that characterizes both good science and great journalism.”—The New York Times

“Immaculate research . . . unstoppable reading . . . Fagin’s book may not endear him to Toms River’s real estate agents, but its exhaustive reporting and honest look at the cause, obstacles, and unraveling of a cancerous trail should be required environmental reading.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Absorbing and thoughtful.”—USA Today

 

Fracking panel member wants stronger NY health review – Politics on the Hudson

Fracking panel member wants stronger NY health review – Politics on the Hudson.

 – Navigation Home 

Key Assembly Member On Fracking Panel Calls For Health Study Do-Over | WXXI News

Key Assembly Member On Fracking Panel Calls For Health Study Do-Over | WXXI News.

The Social Costs of Fracking | Food & Water Watch

The Social Costs of Fracking | Food & Water Watch.

September 24th, 2013

The Social Costs of Fracking

Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom has brought thousands of new gas wells, a number of transient workers and a host of social problems. Food & Water Watch found that traffic accidents, civic disturbances and public health problems in rural Pennsylvania counties have increased since the shale rush began in 2005, diminishing the quality of life for residents of once-bucolic communities.social costs of fracking cover

 DOWNLOAD PDF

 VIEW ON SCRIBD

Economic downturns like the Great Recession are often associated with negative outcomes, but these social and public health costs increased more in rural counties with the new shale gas wells than in rural counties without shale gas drilling. These negative social impacts were especially pronounced in the counties with the highest density of shale gas wells.

The oil and gas industry has surged over the past decade by employing new techniques and technologies that combine horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) to extract gas from shale and other underground rock formations. Fracking injects large quantities of water, sand and toxic chemicals under high pressure to release gas tightly held in rock layers. Fracking has expanded rapidly in areas across the country, but Pennsylvania has been at the epicenter of the nation’s fracking boom, with nearly 5,000 shale gas wells drilled between 2005 and 2011.

The fracking boom has brought heavy trucks crowding rural roads and out-of-state workers flooding small towns, often overwhelming local housing, police and public health capacities. The influx of transient workers with disposable income and little to do in their off hours is a recipe for trouble in small-town America, where alcohol-related crimes, traffic accidents, emergency room visits and sexually transmitted infection have all been on the rise.

Much of the national discussion about fracking has focused on the obvious environmental risks, while the social costs of fracking have been largely ignored. This study is the first detailed, long-term analysis of the social costs of fracking borne by rural Pennsylvania communities.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 120 other followers