The topic of the oil and gas industry is nothing new to Ford County residents, but regulations that don't apply to gas and oil exploration and production companies may be.
Recently, in The Daily Globe's series “The 'Boom' and you,” Windthorst resident Mark Downey shared his concerns about the federal leeway provided to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing companies and his concerns over groundwater contamination. The Globe's research efforts revealed the following:
A website managed by SandRidge, fracfocus.org, estimated a projected total demand for a well to be 8.4 million gallons per day. The process for a single horizontal well typically includes four to eight weeks to prepare the site for drilling, four or five weeks of rig work before hydraulic fracturing operations commence, and two to five days for the entire multi-stage fracturing operation. (8.4 million gallons is equal to approximately 13 olympic-size swimming pools.)
The water will most likely come from area groundwater, surface water, municipal water suppliers or recycled produced water, according to the website www.energyfromshale.org. The same site, which is sponsored by environmental groups and energy companies, said the origin of the water depends on the volume of water needed, area water quality requirements, regulatory and physical availability as well as competing users.
Once drilling is complete, “fracturing fluid” are pumped in at high pressures.
The water is mixed with chemicals and sand with the grains of sand acting as a “proppant.” The grains of sand get into the fractures and hold them open once the water pressure is released. The resulting fluid is called “produced water,” the water SandRidge hopes to dispose of in Ford County.
A legal notice published in the Dodge City Daily Globe June 19 declared SandRidge Exploration & Production, LLC had applied for a permit to authorize the disposal of 'produced' water into a Ford County well. The notice indicates the disposal would not exceed a maximum injection rate of 60,000 bbls per day. This is the equivalent of 1.8 million gallons of chemically-altered water. (1.8 million gallons of water would fill 2.7 Olympic-sized swimming pools.)
Multiple calls to a representative from SandRidge had not been returned at press time.
The oil and gas industry enjoys extensive exemptions from provisions in the major federal environmental statutes intended to protect human health and the environment, according to a document published by Earthworks, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment. The United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA)website confirmed the exemptions as well.
The industry receives exemptions and exclusions to the following statutes:
-The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act,
-The Safe Drinking Water Act,
-The Clean Water Act,
-The National Environmental Policy Act.
Page 2 of 3 - The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act - (RCRA)
RCRA regulates hazardous waste generators, hazardous waste transporters, and hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDFs). RCRA encourages environmentally sound methods for managing commercial and industrial waste, as well as household and municipal waste, as reported by the EPA.
In December 1978, EPA proposed hazardous waste management standards that included reduced requirements for several types of large volume wastes. Generally, EPA believed these large volume “special wastes” are lower in toxicity than other wastes being regulated as hazardous waste under RCRA, the EPA reports. Congress exempted these wastes from the RCRA Subtitle C hazardous waste regulations.
The RCRA Subtitle C exemption, however, did not stop these wastes from control under state regulation or under other federal regulations.
The Safe Drinking Water Act - SDWA
The Safe Drinking Water Act was established in 1974 to protect the quality of drinking water in the U.S. It focuses on all water actually or potentially designed for drinking use including both above ground and underground sources, according to the EPA.
SDWA mandates that EPA establish regulations to protect human health from contaminants present in drinking water, as described by the EPA. The act also includes the Underground Injection Control (UIC) program which regulates five classes of injection wells to protect underground sources of drinking water.
The SDWA was amended in 2005 by an energy bill dubbed the Haliburton Loophole.
Congress used the following terminology in the Energy Policy Act regarding UIC:
"The term 'underground injection' -
(A) means the subsurface emplacement of fluids by well injection; and
(B) excludes -
(i) the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage; and
(ii) the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities."
The Clean Water Act - CWA
The CWA established the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into waters of the United States, according to the EPA. Through this act, the EPA has the authority to implement pollution control programs and to set water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters.
“Effluent guidelines for oil and gas extraction prohibit the on-site direct discharge of wastewater from shale gas extraction into waters of the U.S,” the site reads. “While some of the wastewater from shale gas extraction is reused or re-injected, a significant amount still requires disposal. However, no comprehensive set of national standards exists at this time for the disposal of wastewater discharged from natural gas extraction activities.”
The National Environmental Policy Act - NEPA
The basic policy of NEPA is to assure that all branches of the government give proper consideration to the environment prior to undertaking any federal action that significantly affects the environment, according to Earthworks. NEPA requires federal agencies to conduct an environmental assessment to determine impacts of a proposed action. If a significant impact is found to exist, the agency must then conduct an environmental impact statement.
Page 3 of 3 - NEPA exclusions stemmed from provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
The act made it easier for oil and gas projects on federal lands to avoid federal reviews under (NEPA). The law allowed a "categorical exclusion" for drill pads less than 5 acres if a broader environmental analysis, such as an environmental impact statement, had already been done for the gas field. Most drill pads are less than 5 acres.
A poll taken on our website, dodgeglobe.com, showed the following thoughts from residents relating to the oil and gas boom in Ford County:
Question: What do you think about the anticipated oil and gas boom?
I think it is going to be exciting, positive economic growth. 41%
It will be good for the area, but we will have a little negative, too. 29%
I wish it weren't coming, it's going to bring trouble. 21%
I am not sure, I need more information. 7%
208 people participated in the poll.
Reach Abigail Wilson at (620) 408-9917 or e-mail her at email@example.com.