Federal environmental regulators have directed six of the most active natural gas drillers in Pennsylvania to disclose how and where they plan to treat or dispose of their wastewater once they comply next week with a state request to stop taking it to sewer plants.
In April, state environmental regulators gave Marcellus Shale drillers until May 19 to voluntarily stop bringing the salty, chemical-laden waste fluids to 15 treatment plants that cannot remove all of the contaminants before discharging it into state waterways.
On Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin told the drillers - Atlas Resources, Talisman Energy USA, Range Resources, Cabot Oil and Gas, Shell and Chesapeake Energy - to submit detailed information on both current and anticipated wastewater handling practices by May 25 and again each quarter until June 30, 2012.
Some of those operators had already stopped taking some or all of the fluids to plants that discharge into state waterways by the end of 2010 as they increasingly recycled or reused the waste, according to state records. Other operators continued to rely heavily on surface discharges.
The EPA directive was the latest in a series of efforts by federal environmental regulators to exercise greater authority over gas drillers whose operations are traditionally regulated by the states. The action comes among growing public concern over the thoroughness of state oversight and the potential environmental and public health impacts of Marcellus Shale drilling in the commonwealth.
In a statement, Garvin emphasized that state and federal environmental agencies are working together to regulate the industry, even as he sent Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer a letter encouraging the state to increase its monitoring of the potential impacts of the toxic wastewater.
"We want to make sure that the drillers are handling their wastewater in an environmentally responsible manner," Garvin said. "EPA is continuing to work with PADEP officials who are on the frontlines of permitting and regulating natural gas drilling activities in Pennsylvania."EPA directs six drillers to disclose waste plans - News - Daily Review