Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Government Accountability Office report criticizes EPA's oversight of injection wells

The Environmental Protection Agency has failed to adequately oversee hundreds of thousands of injection wells used in oil and gas drilling, says a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The report criticizes EPA's "inconsistent handling of safety inspections, poor record keeping and failure to adjust its guidelines to adapt to new risks brought by the recent boom in domestic drilling, including the understanding that injection wells are causing earthquakes," Naveena Sadasivam reports for Pro Publica.

EPA, which oversees more than 700,000 injection wells in the U.S., delegates oversight of the wells to state agencies, Sadasivam writes. The problem with that, the report found, "is that the EPA has not consistently inspected those state programs to ensure that state regulators comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act and EPA guidelines. The EPA also has failed to incorporate requirements it has placed on some of its state programs into federal regulations, making it difficult for the agency to take legal action against violators."

Another problem is budget constraints, Sadasivam writes. "Between 2003 and 2012, funding for state injection well programs stagnated at about $10 million a year, which—factoring in inflation—effectively meant resources had declined, the GAO concluded. The report also blamed the EPA for not taking steps to collect complete, consistent and reliable data on injection wells to use for reporting at a national level, mirroring some of ProPublica's key findings." (Read more)

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