Federal EPA Continues to Bully Pennsylvania Using the Safe Water Drinking Act

bullyThe federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to assert itself into states’ business by claiming authority of the federal Safe Water Drinking Act. The latest example was yesterday. The EPA requested (ie demanded) details from six drillers who operate in Pennsylvania on where they will dispose of fracking fluid wastewater now that the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has told drillers that certain municipal sewage treatment plants not specially equipped will no longer be able to accept fracking wastewater. The EPA wants to know where that wastewater will now go.

But the PA DEP itself has not escaped the heavy hand of the federal EPA either. The EPA has “requested” (ie demanded) PA DEP provide a list of facilities that accept fracking wastewater. And the EPA has other “requests” for the DEP on how to do things better (see the EPA press release below).

Press Release

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today directed six natural gas drillers to disclose how and where the companies dispose of or recycle drilling process water in the region. EPA continues to work with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) to ensure that natural gas production takes place safely and responsibly. These actions are among the ongoing steps EPA is taking to ensure drilling operations are protective of public health and the environment. Natural gas is a key part of our nation’s energy future and EPA will continue to work with federal, state and local partners to ensure that public health and the environment are protected.

“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. “EPA is continuing to work with PADEP officials who are on the frontlines of permitting and regulating natural gas drilling activities in Pennsylvania.”

EPA’s action follows a request by PADEP asking drillers to voluntarily stop taking wastewater to Pennsylvania wastewater treatment plants by May 19. 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 companies must report back to EPA by May 25 with information on the disposal or recycling of their drilling process water.

The companies receiving the information requests are: Atlas Resources L.L.C; Talisman Energy USA; Range Resources – Appalachia, L.L.C.; Cabot Gas and Oil Corporation; SWEPI, LP; and, Chesapeake Energy Corporation. These six companies account for more than 50 percent of the natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

EPA has also requested that PADEP:

  • Notify EPA when facilities are accepting hydraulic fracturing wastewater so EPA can assess if a pretreatment program or additional permit limits are needed;
  • Apply water quality standards for the protection of drinking water at the point of wastewater discharge, rather than at the point of first downstream drinking water intake;
  • Consider more “representative” sampling where drinking water facilities are downstream of treatment plants accepting Marcellus Shale gas wastewater; and
  • Be aware that EPA has sent a letter to PADEP’s southwest regional office clarifying that Federal Underground Injection Control permits are required for any placement of hydraulic fracturing wastes in injection wells or bore holes.

EPA requested these actions in a letter to PADEP Secretary Michael Krancer dated May 11. The letter also asked the state agency take action to ensure that any new practices for disposing of drilling wastewater are legally enforceable.

*U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Press Release (May 12, 2011) – EPA Seeks More Information from Natural Gas Drilling Operations to Ensure Safety of Wastewater Disposal

  • Bob_Rosen

    “The EPA wants to know where that wastewater will now go.”

    And wanting to know is tantamount to “bullying”?

    You mean you don’t care where it will go? 

  • Thank god for the EPA, inasmuch as PADEP cannot be trusted to safeguard the interests of average Pennsylvanians like me. And I do wish industry would get off the meme that EPA is behaving like a bully because, oh, I don’t know, they’re DOING THEIR JOB!!. Industry has demonstrated repeatedly by engaging in slipshod practices that endanger public health and safety that it cannot be trusted to police itself. 

  • You can count on me to continue on the meme that it’s not the EPA’s business to interfere in states’ rights.

  • Sigh… I mean the PA DEP is perfectly capable of tracking it and has already said they will. I mean it’s not in the EPA’s charter to be the policeman for what happens in PA when it comes to gas drilling. And they are behaving like bullies by throwing their considerable weight around “requesting” things…which really aren’t requests but demands. That’s the way I see it.

  • John

    America has become a land of people who are afraid of ………..EVERYTHING! 

  • Ekelley

    Sigh……you must be doing that a lot Jim.

  • Rhouck

    You don’t trust your readers to reach the right conclusion, so you compromise your credibility as a reliable source of information. I see 2 “heavy hands” at work here. Please give us some credit!

  • I do indeed.

  • Point taken. Sometimes my frustration bubbles over.

  • DaveS

    The term “level playing field” is often used by politicians and special interests. Certainly a level playing field is good some times. But as both a “land owner” and an environmentally sensitive citizen I would have to say if there is to be any bias, I would prefer any such bias to help protect against known and unknown environmental risks over protecting company rights to profit.  The PADEP performance to date does not seem up to the task. (Why don’t they already know the wastewater disposal plans for each driller at each site?) And, while I HOPE it is not the case, our governor gives every indication that he is in the pocket of the drillers since at virtually every turn he seems to slant the playing field to the benefit of the drillers.  I hope that the drillers (and indirectly I) make lots of money producing badly needed gas. But I would gladly give up much of the profit (and indeed the entire endeavor, if necessary) to ensure that it is not accomplished at a short-term or long-term cost to the environment and local communities.

  • Anonymous

     I am NOT in favor of Marcellus Drilling.    Instead let’s conserve energy.

    To start, eliminate generation welfare, because they believe they are entitled to so much without working.  Then they will learn to shut off the electric and conserve on gas, and heat.  Then stop them from falsely labeling of their children as disabled just so they can collect a check to stay home and continue to waste utilities.  Eliminate free cell phones for welfare and SSI clients.  We got along in the past without cell phones.  There is no reason for tax payers and/or private companies to pay for them.  What happened to the old belief, “If I don’t have the money, I don’t spend.”  Eleanor Roosevelt developing affordable housing as a stepping stone to get ahead; not as a place of entitlement.  NYCHA higher ups want the residents to protest in Albany to save public housing;  Why?  So the drug dealers as well as the higher ups have a job to waste money leading to a waste of utlities?  IF NYCHA  and NYPD cannot make this a drug free and generational welfare free housing development, then let it go PRIVATE.  Dump the slackers on their own island or within the marcellus shale hyrofracturing and maybe they will start to earn their keep and conserve enery.

  • Anonymous

    By the way, I live in housing and have seen the garbage the city has been putting in here and how management is afraid of the undesireables and instead target the decent people forced to live in housing.  

    The encouragement to continuing to use energy instead of conserving energy needs to stop.  Perhaps then we wouldn’t have to drill in the Marcellus Shale.  But then again we can let it go, and watch the human civilization cause the biggest destruction on this planet to a mass extinction, and the beginning of a new earth.  Man does this to himself.  “This planet is on loan to us for our children.”

  • Carlos

     And the drillers response to EPA is…..we don’t take it anywhere, because we recycle it all. The end.

  • Anonymous

    When the governor has been corrupted by the gas drillers, I want an honest cop on the beat. When Chesapeake Energy, the Massey Coal Co of the gas drillers, has gotten away with the sloppy and reckless  behavior for the last several years, someone has to lower the hammer. If PA won’t, then the Feds are more than welcome.

    BTW, Chesapeake is the scourge gas drillers. They are making life difficult by inviting more regulation and inspections by their crappy behavior.

    State’s rights come with state’s responsibilities. PA has flunked that one. So life is a bummer; tough luck; grow up son.

  • Appreciate the comment and your viewpoint–but I disagree with it. If PA has failed, then PA should be held accountable by its citizens (the voters). To trade away freedom and liberty and states rights because of a “failure” on the part of the state is just too high a price. Once gone, freedom cannot be reclaimed. Besides the voters and the citizens, there are the courts. These companies can and should be held accountable–I think there’s better ways to do it than handing the responsibility to an agency that does not have the charter nor right to do it.

  • Anonymous

    Finally someone is taking positive action to protect our water and our health.  If the PADEP isn’t doing their job then I am glad the EPA is.  Frackiing is dangerous and detrimental to our way of life by destroying our waterways.  Thank You EPA