More loopholes for oil and gas polluters – Earthquakes and USDA rural housing loans


From Energy Wire — EARTHQUAKES: Drilling waste wells exempt from earthquake testing rules

When Congress passed the nation’s federal hazardous waste laws in the 1970s as part of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), it kicked to EPA the question of whether oil and gas production waste should be treated as hazardous. During the Reagan administration, the agency determined that it shouldn’t be.

Since the requirement to test injection wells for the likelihood of earthquakes derives from those hazardous waste laws, oil and gas production is exempt.

Energy Wire requires a subscription so I can’t link LINK but excerpts are included above and below.

Oil and gas producers are exempt from a federal environmental law designed to prevent industrial waste injection wells from triggering earthquakes.

When other industries inject their hazardous waste underground, they use wells tested to ensure they won’t unleash quakes. Since oil and gas drillers are exempt from key provisions of federal hazardous waste law, they are also exempt from the earthquake prevention rules when they inject wastewater from hydraulic fracturing.

Shale oil and gas extraction produces massive amounts of solid and liquid waste that is potentially toxic. That waste requires disposal. Liquid waste goes into injection wells or gets dumped into bodies of water. Solid waste is disposed of on farm and ranch land. As thousands of new wells come online watch for industry to come up with new ways to market this waste as beneficial.

Industry pays from $1200 to $3000 per acre to dump drilling mud, sludge and drill bit cutting on farmland. They claim it makes good fertilizer but they don’t disclose that this waste has been found to contain chemicals and heavy metals. They don’t disclose that a study in Arkansas discovered contamination from landfarming.


Another excerpt from Energy Wire:

EPA has a team developing a series of recommendations to suggest to state regulators on earthquakes. The team started work last June and says it hopes the recommendations will help in “managing or minimizing” earthquakes triggered by oil and gas waste injection wells.

The agency, under fire on Capitol Hill from lawmakers concerned about over-regulation, had originally set out to draft recommendations to “avoid” earthquakes caused by oil and gas injection wells (EnergyWire, March 15).

In addition, the National Academy of Sciences is studying how several forms of energy production trigger earthquakes, an effort spurred by the concern of Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) that earthquakes could rattle public confidence in the country’s growing energy industry (Greenwire, Jan. 5).

If you are one of the lucky ones who lives near a disposal well where the earthquakes are “minimized” I hope you have some cash for foundation repairs.

Another one from Energy Wire — FEDERAL AGENCIES: USDA extends review exemption for rural housing loans.

he Agriculture Department has decided to continue an exemption that excuses rural housing loans from environmental reviews that may stand in the way of oil and natural gas production.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said this week that such loans are “categorically excluded” from National Environmental Policy Act reviews, which require the investigation of transactions for their effect on soil, air and water quality.

The exemption will continue to ease the path for drillers looking to conduct rural hydraulic fracturing projects, which environmentalists say could have the effect of contaminating drinking water and polluting the air.

About Sharon Wilson

Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.


  1. Tim Ruggiero says

    I’m not a fan of ‘more’ regulation, but rather real, if not meaningful regulation. The Republicans and Industry are constantly crying about how ‘regulation’ kills jobs, stifles growth and so on. How, exactly? I don’t think any of the so-called critics of ‘regulation’ have actually explained this. The only thing I’ve heard (so far) is that additional regulations cost more, and the operators obviously have to foot those costs. That much makes sense. This is a given rule of supply and demand in the marketplace-when the costs of good increase (for whatever reason) the merchant passes on those costs to the consumer. There’s not one company or merchant out there that doesn’t follow this practice. So, it doesn’t make sense why the natural gas Industry doesn’t do the same thing-until one actually uses some simple logic; Gas companies aren’t very willing to pass on the costs of their ‘goods’ to the consumer because they cannot very easily. In many instances, public utilities set the pricing, and as we’ve all seen, the market price of natural gas has dropped considerably, and isn’t expected to rise any time soon. A warm winter has caused a lesser demand for gas for heating, combined with weak gas prices has created a glut of natural gas. Back tot he supply and demand part.

    And, it’s not like Industry hasn’t seen this coming. All of the major operators are slowing down their production and have less rigs going up, drilling less and even selling off assets to raise cash. A recent example is CHK selling off huge tracts of land they purchased on the cheap to foreign countries at a huge profit. Who would have ever guessed Chesapeake made more money selling good ol’ real estate than they did natural gas?

    Another part of this equation is the gas companies’ FIXED costs and expenses- like drill rigs, employee salaries and benefits as well as the contractor companies like the trucking companies that haul off the toxic waste water.

    Maybe I’m way off course, here, but my thinking is that companies like CHK and Range Resources have lots of employees to pay, whether they are actively drilling or sitting around waiting on the word ‘Go’ for whomever’s land they are supposed to go screw up next. Waste water trucking companies are still hauling off toxic water, and they are all forever working on their forever malfunctioning compressor stations and dehydration units.

    So, is it any wonder the gas companies argue that they are already ‘over regulated’? Maybe we don’t need more regulation, just regulation that actually works.