Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources | EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) | US EPA

Source: Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources | EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) | US EPA

Paying price of pollution – Albany Times Union, 7/3/2016

Albany Times Union – 2016-07-03

Source: Paying price of pollution – Albany Times Union, 7/3/2016

 

Albany

The Patroon Creek bubbles east from Colonie into the city of Albany, barely noticeable as it wends beneath Interstate 90 and a rail line, passing by fading industrial parks and struggling neighborhoods on its way to the Hudson River.

Few of the thousands of commuters who pass over the creek daily likely know of its history as atoxic courier, nor of what Patroon Creek exemplifies: how even the most aggressive efforts to clean up contamination usually fall victim to agonizing delay and inadequate funding, often leaving poisons to imperil upstate New York neighborhoods for decades.

“Superfund is running on fumes; if we had more resources we would see quicker cleanups,” said Judith Enck, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator overseeing Region 2, which includes New York and New Jersey. She added that it’s also the polluters who sometimes “slow walk” and deliberately delay the cleanups. “They make it as lengthy aprocess as possible because they want to put off paying the cost.”

As a result, toxic risks recognized long ago continue to confront New Yorkers throughout the state, a legacy of the lax dumping standards that characterized America’s industrial sites for generations. Patroon Creek is but one example of the often slow response to citizens’ health fears, a practice that’s been repeated at Superfund sites around the region.

For years, the tiny stream carried mercury and PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, that were dumped down the embankment of a Patroon Creek tributary at the former Mereco manufacturing plant on Railroad Avenue, about 1,000 feet north of the University at Albany.

The state of New York began documenting the contamination in 1981. Two years later, the EPA placed the site on its fledgling National Priorities List of the federal Super-fund program, established in 1980 to clean up the nation’s most polluted land and water.

Despite the earlier attention from regulators, the Mereco site took decades to clean up. The delay underscores the challenges that state and federal officials said they face in assessing thousands of polluted sites scattered across New York, from chemical spills on Long Island to toxic landfills near Buffalo.

Public records indicate there are 85 federal Superfund sites in New York, which are considered the most severe cases, and also roughly 465 state Superfund sites that pose “a significant threat” to public health or the environment. The Superfund sites don’t include so-called brownfields, which are moderately contaminated sites, such as corner gas stations with leaky fuel tanks. There are also nearly 2,500 polluted sites that have not yet been evaluated, according to state records.

The backlog, in part, is a result of limited government resources.

Last year, the fallout of manufacturing pollution struck Hoosick Falls, a factory village in eastern Rensselaer County that for decades has been a hub for small plants that produce niche products such as heat-resistant wiring and nonstick coatings. The contamination of public water supplies in Hoosick Falls spurred criticism because the state Health Department and elected leaders told residents their water was safe to drink for more than a year after the officials were made aware that a dangerous chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid, had polluted the community’s underground wells.

The discovery of elevated levels of the man-made chemical, PFOA, prompted the EPA in December to demand that state officials warn residents to stop consuming the water. A month later, as questions mounted about the actions of state and local officials in Hoosick Falls, New York’s environmental commissioner, Basil Seggos, declared PFOA is a hazardous chemical. He also announced several manufacturing plants believed to be responsible for the pollution would become state Superfund sites. Seggos did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story.

Some residents in Hoosick Falls worry their longterm exposure to PFOA may have caused cancer or other serious illnesses, and their concerns are not unique.

The Times Union examined other communities where the public was exposed to toxic chemicals from manufacturing or dumping. In some instances, residents who live near polluted sites or former industries said they have suffered health problems due to possible exposure to chemicals. In other instances, people said they have lost hope that anything will be done to clean up their neighborhoods and water supplies.

In the Mereco case, records show it took eight years for the company, which reclaimed mercury from light bulbs and thermometers, to sign an agreement with the state to identify and fully clean up the pollution. The company initially removed a large amount of contaminated soil. By 1999, as the state struggled to get the company to comply with the plan, the EPA stepped in and took over. Still, it would take until 2013, more than 30 years after the contamination was discovered, for the EPA to secure removal of the remaining 173 tons of hazardous soil.

Lois Gibbs, who became a national environmental figure 35 years ago when she took on federal and state officials over the pollution of her neighborhood, Love Canal, that was built on a toxic landfill in Niagara Falls, said there is inconsistency in the 10 EPA regions in dealing with environmental disasters.

“In other states, EPA has just turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to every one of these problems,” said Gibbs, who remains a prominent voice on environmental issues as founder of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice in Washington, D.C. She said that, while many other EPA regions do not do enough to protect the public, New York’s EPA administrator, Enck, is an exception.

The center was involved in the water crisis in Flint, Mich., “for more than a year before their water was shut off,” Gibbs said. “EPA’s been really horrible under this administration with the exception of climate change. … Historically, EPA has always been sort of the safety net, if you will. People could always appeal to the EPA and say our water is nasty… but the EPA isn’t always stepping in at these sites.”

The region’s most widely known Superfund site is a 200-mile stretch of the Hudson River from New York City to Hudson Falls, Washington County, where General Electric Co. operated a capacitor-manufacturing facility for decades. The EPA estimates that GE flushed more than 1.3 million pounds of PCBs into the river between the 1940s and 1970s, when the chemical was banned.

Although GE is completing a dredging project of the Hudson River that will cost more than $1 billion, the cleanup came only after the company spent millions of dollars opposing the project.

“General Electric fought EPA for a quarter century, including going to federal court to try to get the federal Superfund statute ruled unconstitutional, which luckily they did not prevail on,” Enck said.

Travis Proulx, a spokesman for Environmental Advocates of New York, said funding for Super-fund cleanups is growing thinner on the federal level but New York is in its first year of a $1 billion program that calls for $100 million to be spent annually for 10 years on cleaning up state Superfund sites.

“These are horrifically polluted sites that are very dangerous to the communities that they’re in,” Proulx said. “Had this large investment over a long period of time not happened over the last year we’d probably be having a different conversation about Hoosick Falls right now. … Historically, government has done just a very poor job of holding polluters accountable.”

Rensselaer and Columbia counties are still dealing with the fallout of contamination at the Dewey Loeffel landfill in Nassau, where the EPA estimates at least 46,000 tons of industrial and hazardous waste were dumped in the 1950s and 1960s. The landfill, which was operated by Richard Loeffel and later his son, Dewey, became the dumping ground for toxic waste that included solvents, waste oils, sludges and liquid resins. The landfill’s main customers included General Electric and Schenectady Chemicals, which later became SI Group, according to the EPA.

In 1968, the state pursued legal action against Dewey Loeffel after complaints that cattle and fish downstream from the landfill were dying.

Four years ago, the EPA reached an agreement with GE and SI Group calling for the companies to pay $10 million to filter the contaminated groundwater.. . .

Obama Is Said to Be Planning New Rules on Oil and Gas Industry’s Methane Emissions – NYTimes.com

Obama Is Said to Be Planning New Rules on Oil and Gas Industry’s Methane Emissions – NYTimes.com.

Waste Water from Oil Fracking Injected into Clean Aquifers | NBC Bay Area

Waste Water from Oil Fracking Injected into Clean Aquifers | NBC Bay Area.

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

www.gao.gov/assets/670/664499.pdf.

DRINKING WATER

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.

http://www.epa.gov/oig/reports/2014/20140725-14-P-0324.pdf

 

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.

Bruce

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.

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.

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

www.epa.gov/oig/reports/2014/20131220-14-P-0044.pdf.

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

Anthropogenic emissions of methane in the United States

Anthropogenic emissions of methane in the United States

Significance

Successful regulation of greenhouse gas emissions requires knowledge of current methane emission sources. Existing state regulations in California and Massachusetts require ∼15% greenhouse gas emissions reductions from current levels by 2020. However, government estimates for total US methane emissions may be biased by 50%, and estimates of individual source sectors are even more uncertain. This study uses atmospheric methane observations to reduce this level of uncertainty. We find greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and fossil fuel extraction and processing (i.e., oil and/or natural gas) are likely a factor of two or greater than cited in existing studies. Effective national and state greenhouse gas reduction strategies may be difficult to develop without appropriate estimates of methane emissions from these source sectors.

Commentary on the study:

Bridge Out: Bombshell Study Finds Methane Emissions From Natural Gas Production Far Higher Than EPA Estimates | ThinkProgress.

Huffington Post coverage:

NY Times coverage:

Harvard University Press Release:

Link to Study:

Anthropogenic emissions of methane in the United States

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/11/20/1314392110.abstract

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