The EPA has proposed pretreatment standards for the Oil and Gas Extraction Category (40 CFR Part 435). The regulations would address discharges of wastewater pollutants from onshore Unconventional Oil and Gas (UOG) extraction facilities to Publicly-Owned Treatment Works (POTWs). The EPA contends that “the proposed rule would better protect public health, the environment, and the operations integrity of POTWs by establishing pretreatment standards that would prevent the discharge of pollutants in wastewater from onshore UOG extraction facilities to POTWs. According to the EPA, this proposed prohibition of discharges to POTWs reflects current industry practices; the rule simply codifies this prohibition.

The EPA’s Fact Sheet for more background information. Click here for the full language of the Proposed Rule.

The Proposed Rule does not change the National Pollution Discharge Elimination Sheet (NPDES) permit regulations under 40 CFR Parts 122-125. Currently, permits for onshore oil and gas facilities must include the requirements in Part 435, including a ban on the discharge of pollutants, except for wastewater that is of good enough quality for use in agricultural and wildlife propagation for those onshore facilities located in the continental United States and west of the 98th meridian. Part 435 does not currently include categorical pretreatment standards for indirect discharges to POTWs for wells located onshore (i.e., PSES or PSNS). This Proposed Rule also does not affect or address the practice of underground injection of wastewater discharges from this sector, since such activity is not subject to the CWA, but rather the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The EPA is defining UOG extraction wastewater as sources of wastewater pollutants associated with production, field exploration, drilling, well completion, or well treatment for unconventional oil and gas extraction (e.g., produced water (which includes formation water, injection water, and any chemicals added downhole or during the oil/water separation process); drilling muds, drill cuttings, produced sand). To determine whether your facility would be regulated by this proposed action, you should carefully examine the applicability criteria listed in 40 CFR 435.30 and the definitions in 40 CFR 435.33(b) of the Proposed Rule.

The comment period started on April 7, 2015 and originally extended to June 8, 2015. The EPA has extended the comment period to June 17, 2015.

The EPA is specifically soliciting comments on:

  1. Its proposed definition of UOG and UOG extraction wastewater and specifically whether the proposed definition of unconventional oil and gas is sufficiently clear to enable oil and gas extraction operators and/or pretreatment authorities to determine whether specific wastewaters are from conventional or unconventional sources. See Section XII.
  2. Whether or not there are any existing onshore UOG extraction facilities that currently discharge UOG extraction wastewater to POTWs in the U.S. See Section XII.E.4. If existing discharges to POTWs are identified, EPA requests comment on whether or not the proposed effective date remains appropriate. See Section XVII.
  3. Costs and benefits to POTWs, states, and localities associated with the proposed rule. See Section VI.C.
  4. Volumes of, and pollutants and concentrations in, wastewater generated from UOG extraction. See Section XII.
  5. The nature and frequency of requests received by POTWs to accept UOG extraction wastewater, and the likelihood that such requests will continue to be submitted in the future. EPA is particularly interested in hearing from POTWs and states on this matter. See Section VI.C. and Section XIV.A.2.
  6. Volumes of, and pollutants and concentrations in, wastewater generated from conventional oil and gas extraction. See Section XIV.A.2.c.
  7. The prevalence of conventional oil and gas wastewater discharges to POTWs, including information on any pretreatment that could be applied, geologic formations the gas or oil is extracted from, and locations within the U.S. See Section XII. and Section XIV.A.2.
  8. Removal and “pass through” of UOG extraction wastewater pollutants at POTWs. See Section XIV. and Section XII.E.4.
  9. The environmental impacts of UOG extraction wastewater discharges to POTWs. See Section XV.

You can submit your comments on the proposed rule, identified by Docket No. EPA-HQ-OW-2014-0598 by one of the following methods:

  • http://www.regulations.gov Follow the on-line instructions for submitting comments.
  • Email: OW-Docket@epa.gov, Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2014-0598.
  • Mail: Water Docket, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Mail code: 4203M, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460. Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2014-0598. Please include three copies.
  • Hand Delivery: Water Docket, EPA Docket Center, EPA West Building Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington, DC, Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2014-0598. Such deliveries are only accepted during the Docket’s normal hours of operation, and you should make special arrangements for deliveries of boxed information by calling 202-566-2426.