EPA said in the statement that recent technology and operational improvements in extracting natural gas resources, particularly shale gas, have increased gas drilling activities across the country. Production from shale formations has grown from a negligible amount just a few years ago to almost 15 percent of total U.S. natural gas production and this share is expected to triple in the coming decades. EPA said, "The sharp rise in domestic production has improved U.S. energy security and created jobs, and as with any resource the Administration is committed to ensuring that we continue to leverage these resources safely and responsibly, including understanding any potential impact on water resources."
Re: Shale Gas Standards - Currently, wastewater associated with shale gas extraction is prohibited from being directly discharged to waterways and other waters of the U.S. While some of the wastewater from shale gas extraction is reused or re-injected, a significant amount still requires disposal. As a result, some shale gas wastewater is transported to treatment plants (i.e. wastewater treatment plants, WWTP), many of which are not properly equipped to treat this type of wastewater. EPA will consider standards based on demonstrated, economically achievable technologies, for shale gas wastewater that must be met before going to a treatment facility.
Re: Coalbed Methane Standards - Wastewater associated with coalbed methane extraction is not currently subject to national standards for being directly discharged into waterways and for pre-treatment standards. Its regulation is left to individual states. For coalbed methane, EPA will be considering uniform national standards based on economically achievable technologies.
Information reviewed by EPA, including state supplied wastewater sampling data, have documented elevated levels of pollutants entering surface waters as a result of inadequate treatment at facilities. To ensure that these wastewaters receive proper treatment and can be properly handled by treatment plants, EPA will gather data, consult with stakeholders, including ongoing consultation with industry, and solicit public comment on a proposed rule for coalbed methane in 2013 and a proposed rule for shale gas in 2014.
EPA said the schedule for coalbed methane is shorter because EPA has already gathered extensive data and information on coalbed methane. EPA will take the additional time to gather comparable data on shale gas. In particular, EPA will be looking at the potential for cost-effective steps for pretreatment of this wastewater based on practices and technologies that are already available and being deployed or tested by industry to reduce pollutants in these discharges.
EPA said the announcement is part of the effluent guidelines program, which sets national standards for industrial wastewater discharges based on best available technologies that are economically achievable. EPA is required to publish a biennial outline of all industrial wastewater discharge rulemakings underway. EPA has issued national technology-based regulations for 57 industries since 1972. These regulations have prevented the discharge of more than 1.2 billion pounds of toxic pollutants each year into US waters. EPA publishes an Effluent Guidelines Program Plan (Plan) every other year. The Plan is required by Section 304(m) of the Clean Water Act. EPA last published a Plan in 2008. EPA published a preliminary 2010 Plan for public comment on December 28, 2009, and is now publishing the final "2010 Plan" (October 20, 2011).
Access the announcement from EPA (click here). Access extensive background information and document related to the Final 2010 Effluent Guidelines Program Plan, including a prepublication copy of the Federal Register notice, fact sheet, supporting documents and more (click here). [#Water, #Energy/NatGas]
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