EPA Program to Protect Underground Sources from Injection of Fluids Associated with Oil and Gas Production Needs Improvement



EPA Program to Protect Underground Sources from Injection of Fluids Associated with Oil and Gas Production Needs Improvement

Why GAO Did This Study

Every day in the United States, at least

2 billion gallons of fluids are injected

into over 172,000 wells to enhance oil

and gas production, or to dispose of

fluids brought to the surface during the

extraction of oil and gas resources.

These wells are subject to regulation to

protect drinking water sources under

EPA’s UIC class II program and

approved state class II programs.

Because much of the population relies

on underground sources for drinking

water, these wells have raised

concerns about the safety of the

nation’s drinking water.

GAO was asked to review EPA’s

oversight of the class II program. This

report examines (1) EPA and state

roles, responsibilities, and resources

for the program, (2) safeguards to

protect drinking water, (3) EPA

oversight and enforcement of class II

programs, and (4) the reliability of

program data for reporting. GAO

reviewed federal and state laws and

regulations. GAO interviewed EPA and

state officials and reviewed class II

programs from a nongeneralizable

sample of eight states selected on the

basis of shale oil and gas regions and

the highest number of class II wells.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that, among other

things, EPA review emerging risks

related to class II program safeguards

and ensure that it can effectively

oversee and efficiently enforce class II

programs. EPA agreed with all but the

enforcement recommendation. GAO

continues to believe that EPA should

take actions to ensure it can enforce

state class II regulations, as discussed

in the report.

What GAO Found

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) role in the Underground Injection

Control (UIC) class II program is to oversee and enforce fluid injection into wells

associated with oil and gas production, known as class II wells. EPA has

approved 39 states to manage their own class II programs, and EPA regions are

responsible for managing the programs in remaining states. EPA regions and

states use a mix of resources to manage class II programs, including EPA grant

funding, state funding, and federal and state personnel. EPA’s UIC grant funding

has remained at about $11 million for at least the past 10 years.

Class II programs from the eight selected states that GAO reviewed have

safeguards, such as construction requirements for injection wells, to protect

against contamination of underground sources of drinking water. Programs in two

states are managed by EPA and rely on EPA safeguards, while the remaining six

programs are state managed and have their own safeguards that EPA deemed

effective at preventing such contamination. Overall, EPA and state program

officials reported that these safeguards are protective, resulting in few known

incidents of contamination. However, the safeguards do not address emerging

underground injection risks, such as seismic activity and overly high pressure in

geologic formations leading to surface outbreaks of fluids. EPA officials said they

manage these risks on a state-by-state basis, and some states have additional

safeguards to address them. EPA has tasked its UIC Technical Workgroup with

reviewing induced seismicity associated with injection wells and possible

safeguards, but it does not plan reviews of other emerging risks, such as high

pressure in formations. Without reviews of these risks, class II programs may not

have the information necessary to fully protect underground drinking water.

EPA is not consistently conducting two key oversight and enforcement activities

for class II programs. First, EPA does not consistently conduct annual on-site

state program evaluations as directed in guidance because, according to some

EPA officials, the agency does not have the resources to do so. The agency has

not, however, evaluated its guidance, which dates from the 1980s, to determine

which activities are essential for effective oversight. Without such an evaluation,

EPA does not know what oversight activities are most effective or necessary.

Second, to enforce state class II requirements, under current agency regulations,

EPA must approve and incorporate state program requirements and any

changes to them into federal regulations through a rulemaking. EPA has not

incorporated all such requirements and changes into federal regulations and, as

a result, may not be able to enforce all state program requirements. Some EPA

officials said that incorporating changes into federal regulations through the

rulemaking process is burdensome and time-consuming. EPA has not, however,

evaluated alternatives for a more efficient process to approve and incorporate

state program requirements and changes into regulations. Without incorporating

these requirements and changes into federal regulations, EPA cannot enforce

them if a state does not take action or requests EPA’s assistance to take action.

EPA collects a large amount of data on each class II program, but the data are

not reliable (i.e., complete or comparable) to report at a national level. EPA is

working on a national database that will allow it to report UIC results at a national

level, but the database will not be fully implemented for at least 2 to 3 years.

Climate Change Reports | Office of Inspector General | U.S. EPA

Climate Change Reports | Office of Inspector General | U.S. EPA.



Notes from Bruce Ferguson

  1. The IG assigns a GWP of 25 (over a 100 year time period) to methane, which is more than the figure of 21, which EPA has used in the past, but still well below the figure of 34 used by the IPCC.

2. Everything in the IG report couched in terms of the 100-year time period; the critical 20-year time period is (once again) ignored by EPA.

  1. Reading the  report it’s apparent that converting to the 20-year time period (and using a GWP of 86 instead of 25) would not only provide a sound basis for setting energy policy, but would also trigger regulatory actions. How many more local distribution companies would have to obtain CAA Title V operating permits and/or PSD’s if methane was assigned a GWP potential of 86?

 No Local Distribution Companies Have Obtained GHG Permits From EPA

No local distribution companies (LDCs) have obtained GHG permits from the EPA. In general, any facility with potential to emit 100,000 tons per year (tpy) or more of GHG (measured on a CO2e basis) must obtain a CAA Title V operating permit. Additionally, new facilities with the potential to emit 100,000 tpy or more of GHGs (measured on a CO2e basis)—and greater than or equal to the applicable major source threshold (i.e., 100 or 250 tpy, depending on the source category) on a mass basis—must generally obtain a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) pre-construction permit before it can commence construction.Also, existing facilities that plan to undertake modifications that substantially increase their potential to emit GHG’s may also be required to obtain a PSD permit for GHG emissions before they can make the modifications.15

  1. Fugitive emissions are ignored by EPA.

 Thirty-six LDCs reported more than 100,000 tpy of methane emissions to the EPA in 2011.However, none of these companies has obtained a GHG permit. In our view, this is likely due to the fact that methane emissions from distribution pipelines are generally “fugitive” emissions resulting from leaks. Under current EPA policy, fugitive emissions from these facilities are not counted toward the thresholds for determining whether a source is subject to GHG permitting provisions, except for major modifications at sources under PSD requirements per the EPA’s 2013 permitting guidance that cites CAA Section 302(j) and relevant regulatory provisions.16

 15 EPA provides a thorough discussion of the various GHG permitting requirements in PSD and Title V Permitting Guidance for Greenhouse Gases (March 2011), at http://www.epa.gov/nsr/ghgdocs/ghgpermittingguidance.pdf.

16 Counting GHG Fugitive Emissions in Permitting Applicability (December 12, 2013); EPA guidance document addressing questions about GHG permitting at http://www.epa.gov/nsr/ghgqa.html.

             5. And there’s this:

 EPA Has Not Partnered With PHMSA to Control Methane Leaks

 Historically, PHMSA has regulated LDCs’ pipeline infrastructure with a public safety focus rather than an environmental protection focus.17 PHMSA’s regulations were not designed to mitigate the environmental impacts of leaks. PHMSA requires LDCs to repair or replace leaking pipelines that:. . . represent an existing or probable hazard to persons or property and requires immediate repair or continuous action until the conditions are no longer hazardous.PHMSA regulations leave the repair of non-hazardous leaks to the discretion of the LDC.

According to the Executive Director of BlueGreen Alliance,18 when LDCs discover a leak, they may vent the leak to the atmosphere instead of repairing it if the leak is not a safety hazard. An LDC may also vent a hazardous leak to reduce the safety threat of the leak, thus reducing its explosive potential and downgrading its hazard rating. If a state does not adopt initiatives to enforce the repair of persistent, non-hazardous leaks, the LDC can potentially allow a non-hazardous leak to vent to the atmosphere in perpetuity.

The EPA has not partnered with PHMSA to address leaks from a combined safety and environmental standpoint. EPA staff told us that they do not have a formal partnership with PHMSA, and PHMSA last participated in an EPA Natural Gas STAR workshop in 2009. The lack of coordinated action between the EPA and PHMSA hinders an effective partnership where PHMSA’s technology and regulations could be used to produce additional environmental benefits. The EPA has the opportunity to partner with PHMSA in implementing the 2014 interagency methane strategy.


Agency responses to Constitution pipeline DEIS

Four agencies have specifically stated the DEIS is deficient, must be revised, and possibly supplemented. (The Army Corps feels the same, but, as a Cooperating Agency, didn’t use those terms.)

All five call for greater studies of alternative routes along existing easements. The specific requests vary by agency.

They all think going through interior / upland forests, and forested wetlands, is madness.

Most have said that the DEIS is incomplete because 24% (30 miles) of the proposed route HAVE NOT BEEN SURVEYED.

— big round of applause for the resisting landowners!

Here are links to the heavy weight agency comments:

Comment of US Environmental Protection Agency under CP13-499.

U.S. Department of the Interior Submits Comments under  Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Constitution Pipeline and Wright Interconnect Projects, Pennsylvania and New York CP13-499 et al.

Comment of Army Corp of Engineers under CP13-499.

Comment of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation under CP13-499 et al.

Comment of New York Public Service Commission under CP13-499.

I’m slowing reading everyone’s comments. It will take some time for me to get through them all.

We’ve really done a remarkable job. Thanks to everyone for your time and financial contributions.
Anne Marie

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.

Waters of the U.S. | US EPA

Waters of the U.S. | US EPA.

From: David Masur, PennEnvironment Director <action@pennenvironment.org>
To: jlacreevy <jlacreevy@aol.com>
Sent: Tue, Mar 25, 2014 12:34 pm
Subject: Biggest clean water news of the decade

Breaking news: The EPA just proposed a rule to restore Clean Water Act protections to 49,000 miles of waterways across Pennsylvania.

Put it over the finish line. Send a comment today.

Take Action

Click here

Dear Jean,

Brandywine Creek. The Wissahickon. Neshaminy. Nine Mile Run.

What do all these streams have in common?  Every single one of them is unprotected under the Clean Water Act.

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule to restore Clean Water Act protections to hundreds of Pennsylvania waterways and wetlands and the 8 million Pennsylvanians who get their drinking water from these sources.

Thank the EPA for taking this historic step forward and ask them to see it through to the finish line.

As big as this is, we haven’t won yet. In fact, the most important piece of the fight has just begun. The EPA is asking for public input on their plan in the next few months, and the nation’s biggest polluters are already lining up to stop it in its tracks.

Polluters who have benefited from these loopholes for years are fighting back. Big Ag is saying this rulemaking is cause for “battle,”[1] and last time the EPA took a step half this big, ExxonMobil threatened “legal warfare.”[2]

That’s why I’m contacting you now — to make sure we can send 30,000 messages from Pennsylvanians to the EPA so they hear loud and clear that we are serious about clean water.

Nobody should be allowed to treat our waterways like their personal sewer.

Will you ask the EPA to finish the job?

For more than a decade, PennEnvironment has worked to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act that have left nearly half of Pennsylvania’s’ streams and many acres of wetlands at risk of unchecked pollution. These waterways are critical–they feed and filter our drinking water sources and are some of our favorite places to swim, boat and fish.

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of hundreds of thousands of messages sent from people like you asking the Obama administration to act. Over the past three years, along with our sister organizations across the country, we’ve had more than 1 million conversations with everyday people about protecting our waterways, and we’ve built a coalition of more than 400 local elected officials, 300 small farmers, and 300 small business owners to stand with us and call on the EPA to act.

Let’s finish the job.

Tell the EPA: It’s gone on long enough. Restore Clean Water Act protections to the waterways we love and depend on.

Thanks for all you do,

David Masur
PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center Director
P.S. A decade of work comes down to this. The EPA’s announcement today brings us closer than we’ve ever been to getting our waterways the protection they deserve. But it’s you who will help see it through to the end. Send your public comment in today to close Clean Water Act loopholes once and for all.

[1] “Leaked Draft of Water Jurisdiction Rule May Not Be Final EPA Position, Vilsack Says,” Amena H. Saiyid, Bloomberg BNA. 17 January 2014
[2] “Oil Industry Trheatens Obama Admin Over Clean Water Act Guidance for Wetlands,” Paul Quinlan, The New York Times. 15 April 2011

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New Inspector General report finds EPA needs to act to protect Texas residents’ drinking water from oil and gas operations | Amy Mall’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC

New Inspector General report finds EPA needs to act to protect Texas residents’ drinking water from oil and gas operations | Amy Mall’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC.

Breaking! Inspector General report justifies EPA in Parker County fracking intervention.

Breaking! Inspector General report justifies EPA in Parker County fracking intervention..

Response to Congressional Inquiry Regarding the EPA’s Emergency Order to the Range Resources Gas Drilling Company


Response to Congressional Inquiry Regarding the EPA’s Emergency Order to the Range Resources Gas Drilling Company

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


EARTHWORKS | Reckless Endangerment While Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale| Reckless Endangerment in the Eagle Ford Shale

EARTHWORKS | Reckless Endangerment While Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale| Reckless Endangerment in the Eagle Ford Shale.

Home » Library » Reckless Endangerment While Fracking the Eagle Ford ShaleReckless Endangerment in the Eagle Ford Shale

Reckless Endangerment While Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale

Reckless Endangerment While Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale
Government fails, public health suffers and industry profits from the shale oil boom

Published: September 19, 2013

By: Sharon Wilson, Lisa Sumi, Wilma Subra

Download this publication

From the report SUMMARY (7 pages)

In an unprecedented investigation of oil and gas operations and government oversight in Texas’s Eagle Ford Shale, Earthworks reports a toxic mix of irresponsible industry operators and negligent regulators, and the families who suffer the consequences. Specifically, Reckless Endangerment while Fracking the Eagle Ford, reveals:

  1. Residents requested state regulators provide relief from oil and gas air pollution;
  2. Regulators discovered pollution so dangerous they evacuated themselves;
  3. Regulators took no subsequent action to warn or otherwise protect the residents at risk;
  4. Regulators took no subsequent action to penalize the responsible company;
  5. Residents continue to live with exposure to dangerous oil and gas air pollution.

Oil and gas operations in shale formations release chemicals to air, water, and soil that are hazardous to human health.

Government shares the blame for these releases because rules governing oil and gas development don’t protect the public. Adding insult to injury, state regulators don’t reliably enforce these rules. By failing to deter reckless operator behavior, regulators practically condone it, thereby increasing health risks for residents living near oil and gas development.

Report materials:


NOTE: Apart from the Cerny’s interview, the following videos show emissions that are invisible to the naked eye. One otherwise wouldn’t suspect that the tanks and other infrastructure could be a threat to public health, but using a special FLIR GasFind infrared camera you can see the highly active volatile chemicals — like benzene — escaping into the air and crossing the fenceline. The camera does not quantify, nor does the camera speciate the compounds that are detected.

The Cernys tell their story

– See more at: http://www.earthworksaction.org/library/detail/reckless_endangerment_in_the_eagle_ford_shale#.UjtyLvmsim6