Environmental groups sue to make EPA regulate production wastes

A group of environmental organizations sued the US Environmental Protection Agency, calling for it to regulate surface handling and underground disposal of oil field production wastes. An Independent Petroleum Association of America official quickly dismissed the May 4 action in US District Court for the District of Columbia as a maneuver to stop or delay more US oil and gas development.

“First, let’s be clear about the objectives of these organizations: They oppose the development of oil and natural gas, and everything they say and do must be understood in that reality,” IPAA Executive Vice-Pres. Lee O. Fuller told OGJ on May 5. “What they are trying to do in this litigation is manipulate federal law to allow these big environmental litigators to sue small oil and gas producers when they are complying with state regulations.”

The Washington-based Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) sued on behalf of three national environmental organizations, one of which trains local activists, and three state and community groups.

“Updated rules for oil and gas wastes are almost 30 years overdue, and we need them now more than ever,” said Adam Kron, a senior attorney at EIP. “Each well now generates millions of gallons of wastewater and hundreds of tons of solid wastes, and yet EPA’s inaction has kept the most basic, inadequate rules in place. The public deserves better than this.”

States have effectively regulated oil and gas production wastes for decades, Fuller noted. “These environmental litigators are trying to get EPA to develop federal guidelines that states are not required to implement since they have their own regulations,” he said. “But if states don’t adopt the federal guidelines, these professional litigators can sue individual operators—small businesses or large—even if they are complying with formal state regulations.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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