From ProPublica Communications:
A ProPublica investigation of Class 2 injection wells reveals fundamental safeguards to prevent these wells from leaking or harming the environment are often ignored or circumvented.
Abrahm Lustgarten reports that "State and federal regulators often do little to confirm what pollutants go into wells for drilling waste. They rely heavily on an honor system in which companies are supposed to report what they are pumping into the earth, whether their wells are structurally sound, and whether they have violated any rules."
"Thanks in part to legislative measures and rulemaking dating back to the late 1970s, material from oil and gas drilling is defined as nonhazardous, no matter what it contains," writes Lustgarten.
"Oversight of Class 2 wells is often relegated to overstretched, understaffed state oil and gas agencies, which have to balance encouraging energy production with protecting the environment. In some areas, funding for enforcement has dropped even as drilling activity has surged, leading to more wells and more waste overseen by fewer inspectors."
Lustgarten notes that injection wells have proliferated over the last 60 years largely because, "they are the cheapest, most expedient way to manage hundreds of billions of gallons of industrial waste generated in the U.S. each year.
Yet the dangers of injection are well known: In accidents dating back to the 1960s, toxic materials have bubbled up to the surface or escaped, contaminating aquifers that store supplies of drinking water."
He adds that there are now more than 150,000 Class 2 wells in 33 states, into which oil and gas drillers have injected at least 10 trillion gallons of fluid. "The numbers have increased rapidly in recent years, driven by expanding use of hydraulic fracturing to reach previously inaccessible resources."
Read the full story here - http://www.propublica.org/article/trillion-gallon-loophole-lax-rules-for-drillers-that-inject-pollutants.
The investigation is the second in ProPublica's series on injection wells. Lustgarten goes on to explain how dumping into these wells led to the deaths of nearby workers, the differences between Class 1 and 2 wells, what the EPA and state officials are doing to better regulate the practice, how the oil and gas industry weakened laws related to Class 2 wells, why the modest penalties are not much of a deterrent for violators and how well operators game safety checks.
You can access the first series at "The Hidden Risks of Pumping Waste Underground."
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.
Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.
Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.
No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.
Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.