Saturday, June 9, 2012

Drilling Waste Needs Better Oversight

updated June 12
Last month Environmental Advocates of New York wrote a report, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” that documents how the state is monitoring – or isn’t monitoring – the transport and treatment, or disposal of gas drilling waste. Their conclusion: NY isn’t doing a good job, and based on the proposals under review, the state isn’t ready to oversee the millions of gallons of waste fluids that high-volume fracking will generate.

The group is calling on Governor Cuomo to declare drilling wastes as hazardous hold fracking waste to the same standards as other waste*, prohibit sewage plants from accepting drilling waste, and ban road spreading. 

(* Currently NY classifies drilling waste as industrial, not hazardous. The report calls for this defacto exemption to be repealed and frack waste treated on par with other waste generated in the state: if it contains hazardous material, it would be treated as hazardous waste; if not, it would be treated like other industrial wastes.)

Their report is based on review of nearly 100 Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) permits for the state’s operating gas wells.

Katherine Nadeau, Water & Natural Resources Program Director for Environmental Advocates of New York, says that under state law, DEC asks drillers two questions during the application process regarding waste disposal:

1.    How will drilling fluids and stimulation fluids be contained and disposed of?
2.    If brine will be stored onsite, how will it be stored and disposed of?

Environmental Advocates’ review of drillers’ responses shows that in at least 16 cases, drillers failed to identify where waste was hauled or disposed of. At least 25 permit applications stated that wastes would be disposed of at “approved facilities” without identifying the facilities. Another nine cases indicated that waste would be disposed of per DEC regulations without specifying what this means.

This isn’t a problem unique to NY. The oil & gas boom in North Dakota has seen about 200 wells drilled each month in the northwest part of the state. Now they’re pumping twice as much oil as two years ago – and producing (and spilling) twice as much waste as before. Lines at injection wells have gotten so long that truckers are dumping their waste fluids rather than wait to dispose their waste fluids properly.

No comments:

Post a Comment