The Environmental Protection Agency is holding back the release of a report on earthquakes related to drilling and related operations, EnergyWire reports.
A team of EPA officials has been looking into concerns that deep injection wells – where wastewater from oil and gas drilling is disposed underground – have caused a spate of earthquakes in Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Colorado.
EnergyWire reports the team sent a final draft to EPA headquarters in January, but has not officially released it to the public five months later.
In Pennsylvania, there are seven active deep injection wells, and most drilling wastewater is either recycled or trucked to Ohio for disposal.
[The] report did not recommend that all disposal wells be tested for seismic dangers. Because of that, one member of the working group that drafted the report voted against it.
“The authors and I are not comfortable in having the work product recommend seismic monitoring for every Class IID well across the country, as there are just too many variables that exist,” wrote the chairman of the group, Kurt Hildebrandt, with EPA’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) program in EPA Kansas City-based Region 7.
The version sent to Washington — deemed “final” in a transmittal memo — was included in a response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Inside EPA in March.
The workgroup effort began quietly in June 2011. At the time, EPA officials said “the UIC program can and should implement requirements to protect against significant seismic events.”
But agency leaders have also stressed that group was not seeking to make new policies or regulations. Instead, it was to develop recommendations for state officials for dealing with injection wells linked to earthquakes. The study was to have been completed by December 2011 but wasn’t.
Since January, the EPA has issued permits for three more injection wells in Clearfield, Elk and Indiana Counties, which are all being challenged by local communities. A fourth permit for an injection well in Venango County has received final approval, but is not yet active.
The EPA is reconsidering the permit issued in February for a well in Clearfield County. The agency admitted it made factual errors in its response to public comments, which included concerns about the well’s proximity to water supplies and the potential for seismic activity.