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Saturday, March 15, 2014

America’s dirtiest secret

How billions of barrels of toxic oil and gas waste are falling through regulatory cracks

By Jefferson Dodge and Joel Dyer

Joel Dyer
Workers attempt to clean up a toxic site in Wyoming.
The oil and gas industry has a dirty little secret, make that a dirty big secret … no, make that one of the biggest, dirtiest secrets in U.S. history.
What is no secret these days is that the potential for negative environmental and health impacts as a result of oil and gas exploration and production activity is very real.
Concern over fracking, with its toxic cocktail composed of some combination of between 300 and 750 chemicals, 70 percent of which are known to be harmful to humans because they are carcinogenic or endocrine disruptors, etc., gets most of our collective attention these days. But this industry practice is not the only or largest contamination problem our nation faces as the result of oil and gas development.
In fact, the oil and gas industry’s other contamination problems are so large, they have literally been deemed impossible to prevent or even clean up by both industry and government. As a result, an unimaginable tonnage of contamination is being placed into our environment every year thanks to the near total lack of regulations over oil and gas exploration and production wastes.
The story behind this unregulated onslaught of contamination is so bizarre as to seem impossible, but it isn’t.
We often hear of the “Halliburton loophole,” a name used to describe a regulatory exemption that was created for the industry in 2005 to relieve fracking fluid of the burden of the Safe Drinking Water Act. But the Halliburton loophole is just one small exemption to federal regulations for the oil and gas industry. There are many others.
The mother of all oil and gas waste exemptions had its beginnings in 1978 when the EPA proposed reduced requirements for a couple of types of large-volume wastes associated with the oil and gas industry, namely produced water and drilling muds.Read more...