Rivers Aren’t Sewers

On Tuesday, October 16, 2018, the Houston Chronicle ran a front page story, “EPA Eyeing Water Well Rules,” which said the Trump Administration may change federal clean water regulations to allow oil and gas companies to discharge their wastewater directly into rivers and streams. I was so astonished that I had to read it twice. Could it really be true that the EPA under Trump is willing to throw away years of progress on water pollution in order to placate the oil and gas industry? Has the Trump Administration forgotten that the EPA began as a Republican idea during the Nixon Administration?

Photo Credit: Bluesbby / https://www.flickr.com/photos/17367470@N05/

The background of the situation is that oil and gas drillers, particularly those in the Permian Basin, are reaching capacity in their disposal wells and they are also having to truck their waste water a long way, which is expensive. Waste water recovered from drilling operations, including frack water, is also difficult and expensive to treat. Therefore, the solution that is most obvious to the EPA and the Texas Railroad Commission is to “loosen” the environmental standards. That’s good for the drillers and their profits, bad for the environment and the public.

This is actually a double whammy for Texas.

Drillers use enormous amounts of scarce, valuable, clean water for drilling and fracking and, if this change in policy occurs, the drillers will then be permitted to discharge contaminated water back into the rivers and streams that feed our drinking water supply. This doesn’t seem like a good deal for Texas. Just ask the folks in Pennsylvania who wound up drinking bottled water after a similar plan failed there.