EPA Orders Fracking Drillers To Disclose Disposal Practices

Sharpening its focus on drillers that use hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from deep shale formations, the Environmental Protection Agency directed six firms drilling in Pennsylvania to disclose what they do with contaminated water produced by their wells.
It ordered a seventh firm to stop injecting “frac fluid” and brine it receives from drillers into an abandoned mine near Saltsburg in Indiana County, Pa.
“We want to make sure that the drillers are handling their wastewater in an environmentally responsible manner,” said EPA mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin, in a statement issued yesterday.
The companies had been taking the produced waters, which contain petroleum and an uncertain array of chemicals, to wastewater treatment plants. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection asked the drillers to halt that practice because the plants are not equipped to treat frac fluids.
“EPA wants to know where drillers are now going to dispose of their wastewater and will work with PADEP to ensure EPA has access to this information,” the agency stated. “The companies must report back to EPA by May 25 with information on the disposal or recycling of their drilling process water.”
Fracking fluids are believed to contain benzene, ethylbenzene, formaldehyde, methanol, naphthalene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, toluene, xylene, boric acid, hydrochloric acid, isopropanol, and diesel fuel. Drillers are not required to disclose the chemicals they use.
The six companies named are Atlas Resources, Talisman Energy USA, Range Resources, Cabot Gas and Oil Corp, SWEPI LP, and Chesapeake Energy Corp, which recently spilled fracking fluids across Pennsylvania farmland into a creak that leads to the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay.
The seventh firm, Tunnelton Liquids Co., was originally permitted to treat mine runoff and inject the sludge into an abandoned mine near Saltsburg. But the firm began taking frac fluid and oil and gas waste from drillers.
EPA issued the order under the Safe Drinking Water Act, requiring the company to cease unauthorized discharge of wastewater related to oil and gas production.

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