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injection well

People's Oil & Gas Collaborative- Ohio

Fracking is now responsible for 90 percent of domestic oil and gas production, with thousands of wells popping up across the nation. The number of wells is expected to skyrocket during the next two decades.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976 requires the safe disposal of solid waste and hazardous materials. In 1980, RCRA was amended to exempt waste from the production and development of oil and natural gas (“exploration & production” waste), and so these fracking wastes are not considered hazardous as a result.

Today, U.S. Rep. Cartwright (D-PA) introduced the Closing Loopholes and Ending Arbitrary and Needless Evasion of Regulations (CLEANER) Act. The legislation aims to eliminate a hazardous waste exemption that was added onto the RCRA in 1980. That amendment, which exempted oil and gas companies from having hazardous waste disposal standards, would be removed under the CLEANER Act.

Rep. Cartwright explained:

Under current federal law, oil and gas companies do not even have to test their waste to see if it is toxic, leaving us with no way of knowing what is being disposed of and how it is being treated. It is time oil and gas companies comply with existing minimum standards and oversight. RCRA is meant to protect the public and the environment from hazardous waste. Toxins pose health and environmental risks no matter what industry produces them. It’s time to hold oil and natural gas producers to the same standards that other industries have complied with for over 30 years.

Today the task of regulating disposal of these wastes is currently left to states, with mixed results. For example due to numerous complaints in Ohio, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting an investigation of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources who is responsible for issuing disposal permits for these wastes to be injected underground in Ohio. The Columbus Dispatch recently reported that Ohio injected more than 14 million barrels of fracking waste into disposal wells in 2012, and more than 8 million came from other states.

In addition, Kathryn Hanratty, director of water affairs for the People's Oil & Gas Collaborative- Ohio, stated:

Many communities in Ohio are allowing spreading of oil and gas waste products on roads for dust control assuming that some government authority must have tested them and deemed them safe. However, this waste is not tested and it is very likely to run off into our streams and lakes. We hope that our U.S. Representatives such as Representative Joyce and Ryan will cosponsor this legislation to ensure protection of our water and the health and safety of the people of Ohio.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving back its timeline for release of its study on the impact of hydraulic fracturing from 2014 to 2016, the agency announced this week at the Shale Gas: Promises and Challenges conference in Cleveland, OH.

Dimock, PA, resident Julie Sautner, right, protests in front of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia before an appearance by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, Jan. 13, 2012. Her sign reads “EPA: Do The Right Thing.” (File photo/AP/Jacqueline Larma)

The study, aimed at assessing the threats fracking poses to groundwater supplies and air quality, began in 2010 under the direction of Congress. The intent was to create a thorough assessment of the drilling method so states could make informed decisions on whether to ban fracking or regulate the industry.

With the study’s release still years away, some observers question whether it will mean much at all, as the industry is likely to continue its takeover. Horizontal drilling is already taking off in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Ohio, to name a few. Just this week, Illinois enacted a new law welcoming the industry into the southern portion of the state.

In June 2012, there were more than 680,000 fracking wells throughout the country, according to a Scientific American report—and there’s no sign of it slowing down. By 2018, North America’s daily supply of oil will be 3.9 million barrels higher than it was in 2012, according to the International Energy Agency.

This expansion of the industry will happen before the EPA study can provide guidance on the possibility of water contamination from the fracking process, which injects a combination of water, chemicals and silica sand deep into the earth to break up formation where oil is locked. The concern is that, once injected, those chemicals will seep into the groundwater supply.

“In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted,” Mario Salazar, a former EPA engineer, told Scientific American. “A lot of people are going to get sick, and a lot of people may die.”

For some, it’s more than a concern—it’s a reality. According to EPA’s coordinator of hydraulic fracturing research, Jeanne Briskin, 1,000 chemicals have already been identified as those commonly used in the drilling process.

Without adequate understanding of what is happening and what the consequences are, particularly related to water supplies, a release date of 2016 could be too little, too late.

In the meantime, federal and state governments are attempting to put regulations in place, yet not everyone is convinced they’re doing enough to protect Americans.

Just last month, the Obama administration said it would force oil companies to disclose chemicals used in the drilling process. However, the requirement came with a loophole: The contents of the fracking fluid will be disclosed through the industry-run FracFocus.org, which doesn’t require companies to reveal chemicals that are considered “trade secrets.”

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

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Sign the petition today, telling President Obama to enact an immediate fracking moratorium:

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