Energy & Environment

Groups Say EPA Doing Too Little About Oil Drilling And Earthquakes

Drilling for oil and gas may have slowed down in Texas, but there are still millions of barrels of contaminated wastewater that has to be disposed of. The tainted water is what comes back up out of the ground during drilling operations. Public interest groups say regulations are outdated and are putting the environment at risk.


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Drilling rig in La Salle County, Texas
Drilling rig in La Salle County, Texas

Drilling an oil well brings up millions of gallons of contaminated water that has to be injected back down into the ground into special, deep wells, wells that in north and east Texas have been suspected of causing earthquakes. Drilling also generates tons of a muddy, oily, chemical-laced waste that is often put in shallow pits, many of them unlined.

Adam Kron is a lawyer with one of three national environmental groups that just filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"The industry is generating more waste than ever before and EPA has yet to even review the rules since 1988," says Kron, a lawyer with the Environmental Integrity Project.

Kron says the suit would make the EPA update its rules and enforce them uniformly from state-to-state. Kron sites an example: He says state regulators in Oklahoma have moved to restrict injection wells in places where earthquakes are more likely, but Texas?

"Texas is still completely in denial about injection wells, " Kron said on a conference call with reporters.

The drilling industry disagrees.

"It's easy for them to say, ‘Oh, Texas is an unregulated free-for-all’, but like so much of what they said, it's completely not true," says Steve Everley, a senior advisor to a drilling industry group, Energy In Depth.

"They claim that nothing has happened since the 1980s. That is completely false and they know it," Everley told News 88.7.

Last year, the EPA said in a response to similar allegations that it has been working with the industry and with state regulators on the drilling waste issue, including on rules to reduce the risk of earthquakes from those injection wells.

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