EPA Draft Report Finds Hydraulic Fracturing Not Causing Widespread Impact on Drinking Water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the draft results of a much-anticipated study of the life-cycle impacts of hydraulic fracturing last week, concluding that its use has not caused widespread impacts on drinking water sources. The agency found that fracking can impact water and there are specific instances where the draft does find impacts to water; however, compared to the number of wells, even those are relatively small and do not indicate systemic impacts. Originally requested by Congress in 2010, the draft study has been subject to controversy (ranging from delayed deadlines to conflict over scientific appointments to the peer review panel) and criticism from a range of stakeholders. The draft results will now be subject to public comment and peer review by the agency’s Science Advisory Board before being finalized.
States Seek Injunction to BLM Rule. Wyoming and Colorado, two states challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) hydraulic fracturing regulations, are now seeking a preliminary injunction to block the scheduled launch of the rules this summer. The states asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming to delay the rollout of the rules while the states pursue their legal challenge in court. Among other claims, the states contend that the rules exceed federal authority to regulate underground injection associated with hydraulic fracturing, a process that is currently essentially exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, and has historically been governed solely by states. The states join two industry groups that sought an injunction in May. The state and industry requests for injunctions may be consolidated and a ruling is expected to occur within the next few weeks.
Interior Department to Release Data on Hydraulic Fracturing in Gulf of Mexico. As part of a settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the Department of the Interior (DOI) will release information detailing hydraulic fracturing operations in the Gulf of Mexico. The lawsuit, filed in January in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleged that DOI improperly withheld permits, correspondence, reports and other related documents under the Freedom of Information Act. The parties recently settled the case with DOI agreeing to turn over documents dating back to 2010. The agency will have until April 2016 to release all of the documents.
Colorado NGO Denied Request to Intervene in Lawsuit Challenging Lafayette Ban on Hydraulic Fracturing. The Colorado Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling that an environmental group, East Boulder County United, did not have a legal right to intervene in an ongoing lawsuit between the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and the city of Lafayette. Lafayette passed a fracking ban in 2013. The group sought to intervene, alleging that Lafayette would not adequately defend the ban. The Boulder County District Court denied the motion to intervene and also struck down the ban as a violation of state law. East Boulder County United challenged both the decision and the ruling on the ban, but an appellate court affirmed that the group could not enter the lawsuit.
Company to Pay $500,000 to Resolve RCRA Waste Violations. Universal Pressure Pumping Inc., an oil and gas service company, will pay $500,000 in civil penalties to resolve hazardous waste issues at eight of its facilities. The company, which operates primarily in the Barnett, Eagle Ford and Permian basins as source for hydraulic fracturing services, was accused of violating federal law by generating and transporting hazardous waste without proper authorization from EPA and without proper records and labeling. EPA launched a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) investigation in May 2014 and the parties reached a settlement in a consent agreement and order in May 2015.