Clean Water Act

Wed, 2014-05-28 05:00Sharon Kelly
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Exclusive: Leaked EPA Draft Fracking Wastewater Guidance Suggests Closer Scrutiny for Treatment Plants

One of the most intractable problems related to fracking is that each well drilled creates millions of gallons of radioactive and toxic wastewater.

For the past several years, the Environmental Protection Agency has faced enormous public pressure to ensure this dangerous waste stops ending up dumped in rivers or causing contamination in other ways.

But the drilling boom has proceeded at such an accelerated pace in the United States that regulators have struggled to keep up, to control or even track where the oil and gas industry is disposing of this radioactive waste. As a consequence, hundreds of millions of gallons of partially treated waste have ended up in the rivers from which millions of Americans get their drinking water. 

An internal draft EPA document leaked to DeSmog gives a small window into how, after a full decade since the start of the drilling boom, the agency is responding.

The document, dated March 7, 2014, is titled “National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permitting and Pretreatment for Shale Gas Extraction Wastewaters: Frequently Asked Questions.”

It's revealing for what it shows about how EPA staff are taking the hazards of fracking wastewater more seriously — and also how little things have changed.

“In general, the EPA memo does a good job of making clear that fracking wastewater discharges are covered under the Clean Water Act, and that proper discharge permitting is required, including setting limits to protect water quality standards and to comply with technology based standards in the Clean Water Act,” explained Clean Water Action attorney Myron Arnowitt, who was asked by DeSmog to review the document. “It is mostly an increased level of detail for regional EPA staff regarding permitting issues under the Clean Water Act, compared to the pervious memo in 2011.”

The document, intended as a guide for local regulators on how the Clean Water Act should be interpreted and applied, is impressive in many ways.

Tue, 2014-03-25 13:18Anne Landman
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Former Ohio Excavator Pleads Guilty to Dumping Contaminated Fracking Water

No dumping
The former owner of a Youngstown, Ohio, excavating company pled guilty to illegally dumping thousands of gallons of contaminated fracking wastewater into a storm drain that led to the Mahoning River. 
 
Benedict Lupo, 63, will be sentenced on June 16 for violating the Clean Water Act. His sentence could range from probation to up to three years in federal prison. The federal prosecutor in the case intends to seek the maximum sentence.
 
Lupo's employee, Michael Guesman, confessed that Lupo instructed him to dump contaminated fracking brine, only after dark and when no one else was around, into a storm water drain near the business in December 2012. Guesman admitted following Lupo's instructions and dumping the drilling mud and brine from 20,000-gallon storage tanks down the storm drain on 24 different occasions. Analysis showed the wastewater was contaminated with hazardous pollutants including benzene and toluene.  
 
Mon, 2013-01-07 10:14Ashley Arden
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W&T Offshore Fined $1 Million for Using Coffee Filters to Doctor Water Samples

W&T Offshore Oil & Gas Logo

Bizarre new details of just how W&T Offshore Oil & Gas contractors doctored water samples came to light last Thursday when W&T officially pled guilty to criminal charges under the Clean Water Act for tampering with water samples and failing to report a spill back in 2009 off of their Ewing Banks Block 910 platform, 175 miles south of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico.

W&T admitted that their contractors ran contaminated water samples through coffee filters to remove oil and other pollutants before turning them over for testing.

While the company had secured a permit to dump waste water back into the Gulf, W&T Offshore was required to monitor and report the oil levels in the liquid.

W&T also admitted to failing to report a sheen of oil around the 910 platform that they tried (but failed) to clean up for several weeks after another incident in which an angry worker shot off a flare in November of 2009, which they also failed to report to the Coast Guard.

David Hammer at Eyewitness News reported that when Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Officers inspected the platform, they still found oil staining on the platform deck and a visible sheen in the water, all of which W&T failed to report as required.

As part of the guilty plea agreement, W&T Offshore was ordered to pay $1 million (a fine of $700,000 and $300,000 for community service), will be under probation for three years and will be required to implement an environmental compliance program.

W&T Offshore is headed by founder and CEO Tracy Krohn and operates some 107 platforms in the Gulf.

Sun, 2013-01-06 12:10Farron Cousins
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Citizens Take Action Against Coal Company For Clean Water Act Violations

A citizens group in Pennsylvania has filed a lawsuit against Emerald Coal Resources LP (ECR) for polluting waterways in their state.  ECR operates a coalfield in Waynesburg, which is the focus of the suit.

The suit is being handled by The Center For Coalfield Justice, and alleges that ECR committed numerous violations of the Clean Water Act over the last five years, with those violations greatly intensifying in the last 12 months.

Huffington Post has the specifics on the suit:

The lawsuit contends Emerald Coal has violated pollution levels for iron, manganese, aluminum and other pollutants more than 120 times in the past 12 months and more than 400 times in the past five years. The group is basing those claims on violations the company has been self-reporting to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection under Emerald's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit as part of the federal Clean Water Act.

The Center for Coalfield Justice said that they had attempted to reach an amicable resolution to the violations with ECR, but that the company was less than willing to cooperate.  As such, the group felt that a lawsuit would be the only way to force the company to comply with federal laws.

The Clean Water Act allows for citizens to sue when corporations have violated the law, provided they give the federal government 60 days notice. The Center for Coalfield Justice has followed that protocol

Thu, 2012-11-15 17:55Farron Cousins
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Patriot Coal To Stop Destructive Mountaintop Removal Mining In Appalachia

Patriot Coal, one of the largest coal companies in America, recently announced its decision to end mountaintop removal mining (MTR) in the Appalachian Mountains. 

To date, Patriot Coal is the only major coal company in America to pledge to stop mountaintop removal mining. On the surface, it might appear that the company has had a genuine change of heart, but the reality is that this decision was more out of economic necessity than concern for the environment and human health.

Several conservation groups, led by the Sierra Club, have pressured the company to end their destructive MTR practices for years, which resulted in numerous lawsuits filed against the company for environmental abuses.  Those lawsuits have led to millions of dollars worth of fines and verdicts against the coal giant, which in turn gave us its new, anti-MTR platform.

The company released the following statement regarding its decision:

Fri, 2012-10-26 08:00Steve Horn
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Tar Sands South: First US Tar Sands Mine Approved in Utah

The race is on for the up-and-coming U.S. tar sands industry. To date, the tar sands industry is most well-known for the havoc it continues to wreak in Alberta, Canada - but its neighbor and fellow petrostate to the south may soon join in on the fun

On Oct. 24, the Utah Water Quality Board (UWQBapproved the first ever tar sands mine on U.S. soil, handing a permit to U.S. Oil Sands, a company whose headquarters are based in Alberta, despite it's name. 

In a 9-2 vote, the UWQB gave U.S. Oil Sands the green light to begin extracting bitumen from its PR Spring Oil Sands Project, located in the Uinta Basin in eastern Utah. The UWQB concluded that there's no risk of groundwater pollution from tar sands extraction for the prospective mining project.  

Members of the public were allowed to attend the hearing but “were not permitted to provide input,” according to The Salt Lake Tribune

Thu, 2012-10-25 17:00Farron Cousins
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Groups Call On EPA To Close Fracking Disclosure Loopholes

Seventeen public interest groups, including the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), have petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to close a loophole in U.S. laws that allows hydraulic fracturing operations to be exempt from disclosing the pollutants they release each year.

Under the current code, the fracking industry is exempt from having to disclose the pollutants that they release into the atmosphere every year, which is estimated by the EPA to be about 127,000 tons of pollution.  These pollutants endanger both the environment and people living in and around areas where fracking wells are operated, and the lack of disclosure makes it difficult to pinpoint the cause of illnesses and properly diagnose people when they become sick from exposure.

That is why the EIP and other groups have created a petition that was sent to the EPA, hoping to convince the agency to once again consider adding the fracking industry to their Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), which contains information about the amount and type of pollutants released into the environment by U.S. companies.  The last time the agency considered adding the fracking industry to the list was in 1996, but those discussions ended with the industry as the victor.

Tue, 2011-08-02 10:30Farron Cousins
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EPA Proposes First-Ever Federal Fracking Rules

The U.S. EPA is poised to enact the first ever rules on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) with a proposal that would allow the agency to regulate the practice under the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air route was chosen by the agency, as the U.S. Congress prohibited their attempts to regulate the practice of fracking under the Clean Water Act in 2005.

From Raw Story:

Sat, 2011-01-29 14:09TJ Scolnick
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GOP Lawmakers Submit First Attempt To Limit EPA Oversight

On Wednesday, West Virginia and Ohio politicians David B. McKinley (R-WV), with co-sponsors Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Nick Rahall (D-WV), Bill Johnson (R-OH) and Bob Gibbs (R-OH), filed legislation (H.R. 457) restricting the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to revoke permits issued by the Secretary of the Army.

The proposed bill amends the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and specifically Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act (which has only been used 13 times since 1972 - including two weeks ago when the EPA vetoed Spruce Mine No.1 in West Virginia). Retroactive to January 1, 2011, the EPA would lose oversight authority to revoke or veto a permit issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

Despite the fact that the EPA never signed off on Spruce Mine No.1 and it was Arch Coal’s subsidiary Mingo Logan Coal Co. which refused to compromise with the EPA to limit excess pollution and stream destruction, the Republican freshman McKinley claims that his legislation is going after EPA for years of bullying coal companies.

Tue, 2011-01-18 15:43TJ Scolnick
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West Virginia Politicians Vow To Fight Dirty On Coal, While EPA Enforces Laws To Protect Appalachian Residents

Dirty coal and climate denial are hot topics in West Virginia right now.  Last week, acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D-WV) delivered West Virginia’s State of the State address where he gave a spirited defence of “carbon friendly” coal.  Then the very next day the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stole the spotlight by vetoing what would have been the largest mountaintop removal project in the state.

Tomblin, who replaces former Governor and newly minted Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), emphasized his support for the expanded use of coal as a vital part of the nation’s energy mix.  He also vowed to aggressively pursue West Virginia’s lawsuit against EPA until a more “sensible” approach can be found to regulate coal’s global warming emissions.

Governor Tomblin’s comments do not break new ground and will tie West Virginia to coal despite the fact that the industry negatively impacts the state’s economy.  His counterparts Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and the aforementioned Joe Manchin are already well known for frequently overlooking the negative impacts of coal.

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