The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General, in a February 5, 2014 memorandum, stated that it intends to evaluate how federal and state regulation of the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) industry has protected water resources and managed potential threats. “EPA’s Oversight of Hydraulic Fracturing Impact on Water Resources.”
Currently the states are the primary regulators of the fracking industry. While the federal government has had limited involvement in fracking regulation, the EPA has been conducting impact studies on fracking for several years.
On a related note, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget recently approved the EPA’s guidance for fracking activities that use diesel fuels. The draft guidance, “Permitting Guidance for Oil and Gas Hydraulic Fracturing Activities Using Diesel Fuels –Draft: Underground Injection Control Program Guidance #84,” indicates that the Agency’s position on how the Underground Injection Control “Class II” requirements, authorized under the Safe Drinking Water Act, should apply to fracking operations using diesel fuels.
In some states the use of diesel fuels in fracking operations is already heavily regulated – or prohibited altogether (see, e.g., § 245.870 of the draft Illinois regulations, which we previously blogged about). Because the Safe Drinking Water Act specifically excludes the injection of fluids or propping agents other than diesel fuels from regulation, the new EPA guidance will have little or no impact on the fracking activities in those states.