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Eco-groups file notice with EPA for new federal regulations on disposing of drilling wastes

A coalition of environmental organizations on Wednesday filed a legal notice with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency demanding regulations to stop oil and gas companies from dumping drilling and fracking waste in ways that threaten public health and the environment.

That includes Ohio injection wells for liquid drilling wastes that have triggered earthquakes and low-level radioactive waste from drill cuttings going into Ohio landfills.

The groups filing the 20-page notice were the Environmental Integrity Project, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthworks, Responsible Drilling Alliance, San Juan Citizens Alliance, West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice with an Ohio office.

In a teleconference, they called on the EPA to comply with its long-overdue obligations to update waste disposal rules that should have been revised 27 years ago.

Toxic and radioactive drilling wastes should not be treated like household garbage, they said.

For example, the EPA should institute stricter controls for underground injection wells, which accept 2 billion gallons of oil and gas wastewater every day and have been linked to earthquakes in Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.

The federal EPA should also ban spreading fracking wastewater onto roads or fields and should order landfills and ponds that get drilling wastes to be built with adequate liners to prevent leaks and spills, the eco-groups said.

“Oil and gas waste is extremely dangerous,” said Matthew McFeeley, attorney at NRDC.

The oil and gas industry has opposed efforts to update and expand federal waste regulations, maintaining that state regulations are working well.

The groups notified EPA that they will file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington in 60 days unless the agency complies with its duty under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act to review and revise the federal regulations on drilling wastes.

The EPA determined that such revisions of the regulations were necessary to address specific concerns with oil and gas wastes in 1988, but it not yet acted.

If the EPA does not act within 60 days, the groups intend to ask a federal court to set strict deadlines for the EPA to complete the update and strengthen the regulations.

“The public deserves better protection than this,” said Adam Kron, attorney at the Environmental Integrity Project.

Added Columbus-based Teresa Mills, director of the Ohio field office for the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice, “These are not your mom and pop wells of the 1980s, and their waste can no longer be ignored and listed as being non-hazardous. For the agency to continue to classify millions of gallons/tons of hazardous material as non-toxic is mind-boggling. The free ride for the oil and gas industry must come to an end now.” she said.

This article was written by BOB DOWNING from The Akron Beacon Journal and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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