Hydraulic fracking is the leading most efficient method for procuring natural gas in oil fields, but it does have the potential for danger to the environment. With that in mind, the EPA regulates this process in order to ensure the public’s health and safety as well as the integrity of the environment in which these oil fields and fracking operations exist.
Here are a few examples of some of the most relevant regulations that should be understood and implemented by hydraulic fracking operations.
EPA Fracking Regulations
Safe Drinking Water Act
These rules stipulate how a well is constructed, operated, maintained, reported on, and then eventually plugged and abandoned in order to minimize the risk of groundwater contamination from the well. Oil companies must have plans approved by the EPA for new construction of a well, reports during the use of well, and there must be an approved abandonment plan for the well. If wells are found to be non-compliant with these regulations companies face fines and possible shut down of operations.
Clean Water Act
This act stipulates that wastewater must not be discharged into bodies of water before being sufficiently treated for discharge into bodies of water. Each oil company must have a plan in place for wastewater management. A company like Texoma MFG, LLC is an oilfield and fracking solution industry resource. Their new leak-proof acid tank is a revolutionary solution for fracking waste. These tanks can be used to maximize efficiency and safety standards to comply with this Act.
In receiving an operating permit from the EPA, permit writers must consider whether or not any portion of the injected fuel is considered diesel fuel. These decisions are made on a case by case basis and continue to be debated between industry and non-governmental agencies. Industry groups say the EPA’s definition is too broad, while non-governmental agencies would like any diesel fuel injections banned entirely.
Federally Managed Lands
If hydraulic fracking is done on federal lands then they must do the following:
- Report information regarding the handling of recovered fluids
- An estimate of the amount of flowback recovered by the hydraulic fracturing operation
- Description of proposed disposal methods for flowback
This likely is to help understand the process of hydraulic fracking better and provide more comprehensive regulations.
New Source Performance Standards
The EPA is authorized to set technology-based standards for new or modified stationary sources that can cause or contribute to air pollution that may adversely affect public health. This was born out of a lawsuit against the EPA saying that it had not fulfilled its duty to review major sources for air pollution. This rule is an evolving standard the industry must pay close attention to in order to remain compliant.
Penalties Related to EPA Regulation Violations
The EPA utilizes three types of enforcement action if an organization violates the regulations meant to keep fracking as safe as possible. These actions are:
Civil Administrative Actions
This is typically a notice or letter informing the violator that they’re not adhering to the regulations; it could also be an order (which could also include penalties) that directs the offender to take action to become compliant.
Civil Judicial Actions
This action is a formal lawsuit, filed in court against the offenders who aren’t complying with the regulations, haven’t complied with an administrative order or paid the EPA for the costs related to cleaning up the violations. When a penalty results in judicial action, it’s field by the U.S. Department of Justice on the EPA’s behalf.
If an EPA regulation violation is very serious, and willfully or knowingly committed, it could result in a court conviction. This conviction could lead to steep fines or even imprisonment.
Upcoming Fracking Regulations
As the industry grows and evolves with newer and better technologies, so will the EPA regulations and standards. Texoma MFG, LLC can be a resource for the oilfield and hydraulic fracking industry to help keep track of emerging regulation. The EPA intends to continue to evaluate, for example, the need for the regulation of methane gas. If regulation is brought into existence, then the industry needs to be ready with solutions to comply.