Court Approves Drilling Waste Settlement with EPA

Consent decree requires EPA to review oil and gas waste rules

Press release from the Environmental Integrity Project and
the Natural Resources Defense Council

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Late Wednesday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia formally approved a consent decree between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a coalition of community and environmental organizations.  The consent decree requires the agency to review and, if necessary, revise its rules for the disposal and handling of dangerous and harmful oil and gas wastes, such as those that result from drilling and fracking.  The organizations had filed a federal lawsuit against EPA in May due to the agency’s failure to review these rules for nearly thirty years.

The organizations on the lawsuit—captioned Environmental Integrity Project et al. v. McCarthy, No. 1:16-cv-00842—include the Environmental Integrity Project, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthworks, Responsible Drilling Alliance, San Juan Citizens Alliance, the West Virginia Surface Owners’ Rights Organization, and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.

“This consent decree is a step in the right direction toward fulfilling EPA’s duty to the public,” said Adam Kron, senior attorney at the Environmental Integrity Project.  “EPA has known since 1988 that its rules for oil and gas wastes aren’t up to par, and the fracking boom has made them even more outdated.  Our communities deserve the best possible protections for their health and the environment.”

In their lawsuit, the organizations raised a number of different wastes and industry practices that new rules should address, including the disposal of fracking wastewater in underground injection wells, which accept hundreds of millions of gallons of oil and gas wastewater and have been linked to numerous earthquakes in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas  The organizations also urged EPA to ban the practice of spreading fracking wastewater onto roads or fields, which allows toxic pollutants to runoff and contaminate streams, and to require landfills and pits to be built with adequate liners and structural integrity to prevent spills and leaks into groundwater and streams.

“We are pleased that the Court approved the parties’ agreement,” said Amy Mall, senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “EPA is long overdue to take a closer look at the unique risks posed by oil and gas waste.  We will hold the incoming administration accountable for heeding this call, and we will continue to fight to ensure communities get the protection they need from this toxic mess.”

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