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Ohio Utica Shale

Group says EPA must protect drinking water from injection wells

By Bob Downing Published: July 31, 2014

From Clean Water Action today:

WASHINGTON, DC – This week the Government Accountability Office released DRINKING WATER: EPA Program to Protect Underground Sources from Injection of Fluids Associated with Oil and Gas Production Needs Improvement, the results of its two year investigation into the Environmental Protect Agency’s (EPA) Underground Injection Control (UIC) program. Clean Water Action welcomes this much needed investigation into oversight challenges in the UIC program and calls on EPA to implement the recommendations detailed within the report (view the report here - http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-555).

“As oil and gas production has soared in recent years, so has the amount of wastewater created in the process,” said John Noël, Clean Water Action’s National Oil and Gas Campaigns Coordinator. “If we are serious about protecting drinking water resources for generations to come, we need EPA to step up its oversight of injection wells and update the program to reflect the realities of unconventional oil and gas development.”

In the five years between 2007-2011, oil production from shale jumped 5 fold to 217 million barrels, while gas from shale increased over 4 fold to 7.2 trillion cubic feet. As a result, every day over 2 billion gallons of fluids are injected into underground wells which conveniently tuck oil and gas production wastes out of sight. The EPA UIC program is involved in some form of oversight of these wells which total around 172,000 across America. The GAO report outlines a number of risks these wells pose to our vital underground sources of drinking water including overpressurization, earthquakes and toxic chemicals in the injected wastes. The GAO also highlighted concerns about inconsistent EPA oversight, enforcement, and outdated regulations.

The report specifically highlights the threat that diesel fuels used in oil and gas fluids poses to drinking water resources, along with the lack of information the EPA has to track and permit its use. “…while it is the responsibility of the operator to obtain a permit for any injection covered by UIC program laws or regulations, the information officials need to ensure that diesel permits are issued when necessary may not be available, depending on state requirements and practices.” Clean Water Action has long called for EPA to ban the use diesel fuels and believes this report further substantiates that position.

“As shale drilling and the resulting wastewater continue to increase, we are seeing more evidence of overpressurization and earthquakes resulting from injection wells. EPA needs to heed the warning of the GAO investigators and not blindly assume that all is well with the UIC program.” Noel continued, “The fact that EPA lacks the information it needs to protect communities from the use of diesel fuels in oil and gas fluids is stunning.”

A lot has changed in the oil and gas industry since 1974 when the Safe Drinking Water Act first created the UIC program. Clean Water Action agrees it’s time for our underground sources of drinking water to receive the type of modern oversight American’s deserve.


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Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

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Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

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Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

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National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

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Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

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Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.