MDN Weekly Update – Oct 23, 2011: Should the EPA Regulate Fracking Wastewater?

poll resultsMDN is somewhat surprised at the poll results from the most recent poll which asked if PA should redefine natural gas as a “mineral right” for purposes of deeds and real estate transactions. Since 1882 it has not been considered a mineral right. If the courts in PA change it now, it is akin to changing the rules in a baseball game at the bottom of the 9th inning with 2 outs. It threatens to throw the drilling industry in PA into chaos as multiple lawsuits will surely be filed and take years to resolve. Still, MDN readers by a convincing majority say such a change should be made.

Should PA courts redefine natural gas as a mineral right?

Yes (46%, 111 Votes)
No (40%, 97 Votes)
Not sure (14%, 33 Votes)

Total Voters: 241

Should fracking wastewater be regulated by the federal EPA?

MDN reported on the EPA’s very loud and clear message this past week that they intend to start regulating where and how fracking wastewater can be disposed (see this MDN story). For years now, the EPA has attempted to control oil and gas drilling by whatever means they can. Traditionally, and by law, oil and gas drilling is left to the states to regulate, not the federal government. But of course that hasn’t stopped the federal government over the years in encroaching on states’ rights. MDN has gone on record numerous times saying the EPA should butt out of what belongs to the states—that the states know best how to regulate their own industry, which is heavily dependent on unique geography—rather than receive a one-size-fits-all mandate from the federal government.

The EPA is currently conducting a multi-year study on hydraulic fracturing, attempting to determine whether or not it’s really a safe technology. That study will not be completed until 2014. In the meantime, they still want to pull the strings and control what happens. This time they are using wastewater disposal from fracking as the method to do it.

The strongest argument for federal control is that water flows across borders—what’s done in one state can and will affect other states. And who better to ensure one state’s “lax” rules don’t injure the environment of another state than the EPA? That’s the argument. The counter-argument is, we already have oversight of waterways that are truly interconnected: It’s called the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) and the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). Both organizations are made up of the states where those mighty rivers flow—including all of the watershed areas and tributaries around those rivers. The commissions are quasi-federal organizations with state representation, and they’re doing a fine job of regulating wastewater disposal, and water usage, in their particular jurisdictions.

Also, while there is still wastewater being produced from fracking, many drillers now recycle 100 percent of the wastewater and reuse it in their fracking operations. So the volume of wastewater that needs disposal is decreasing over time.

What do you think? Are the SRBC and DRBC sufficient to the task of protecting water that flows across borders? Should the federal EPA be involved? Register your vote on the right side of any page on the website.

Below are the most recent “top 5” lists and the calendar of Marcellus related events for the next two weeks.

Happy reading,
Jim Willis, Editor

Five Most Viewed Stories This Past Week (Oct 16th – Oct 22nd)

  1. Ohio Utica Shale Permits Double in Last 3 Months (10/13/11)
  2. Major Discovery – Chesapeake Energy Strikes Oil (and Gas) in Ohio’s Utica Shale (7/29/11)
  3. Will Most Drillers Even Bother with New York? (10/21/11)
  4. MDN Quick Update (10/20/11)
  5. EPA to Regulate Shale Gas Drilling via Wastewater Standards (10/21/11)

Five Most Viewed Stories Last 30 Days (Sep 22nd – Oct 22nd)

  1. Major Discovery – Chesapeake Energy Strikes Oil (and Gas) in Ohio’s Utica Shale (7/29/11)
  2. Belmont County, OH Landowners Sign Utica Shale Leases (9/19/11)
  3. Chesapeake’s New Utica Shale Wells Producing “Very Strong” (9/29/11)
  4. Is Marcellus Shale a Mineral? An Important Question in PA (9/22/11)
  5. List of 78 Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid in Pennsylvania (6/30/10)

MDN Calendar (Oct 23rd – Nov 5th)

New York



  • Anonymous

    Well, this is a new twist for me.    I’ve been armchair thinking it would be good to have some standards everyone could agree on re: fracking, so why not EPA. 

    The above article reminded me that the U.S. Constitution gives the Federal Government power to regulate across state lines via the Commerce Clause (   If my memory is correct, the EPA gets much of  its original authority from court cases dealing with “navigable waters” between states.  Hard to stretch that to underground waters IMHO although I think attempts have been made to stretch the Commerce Clause as far as to cover guns in schools. 

    I think some sort of standards are in order;  just might need to be the interested parties working together and then working with the states to make sure bad actors don’t ruin things for everyone.

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