Thursday, August 8, 2013

EPA permits wastewater from fracking to be dumped in Indian Country

Elizabeth Shogren reports today for NPR from the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.  An excerpt follows:
An NPR investigation last year discovered that the EPA was allowing oil companies to send so much of this contaminated water onto dry land that it was creating raging streams. At the time, there was a controversy within the agency over whether to keep allowing this practice, according to documents NPR obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. 
On Friday, the EPA will close the public comment period onproposed permits for several oil fields on the reservations. The proposed permits include some additional restrictions, but would allow companies to continue releasing the water.
Shogren quotes Duke University Professor of environmental science, Robert Jackson:
I am surprised that it's still allowed. It looks like the protections for tribal citizens here are weaker than those for citizens in Wyoming that surround them. If so, that's wrong. 
This story features shocking descriptions of what is happening, and this quote from Wes Martel, a tribal leader, commenting on whether the wastewater is safe, especially since signs near it warn of danger and it smells of rotten eggs, a sign of hydrogen sulfide, which can be deadly in sufficient quantities:
Well, especially this volume of water.  And this is constant. So it really makes you wonder what kinds of impacts is this having, on not only aquatic life but our wildlife.
Darrell Lohoefer, president of Dallas-based Eagle Oil & Gas, which has the permit it is seeking to renew, says the water from his company's operation "looks like a flowing small creek." He says the water has created artificial wetlands in which wildlife "are thriving."  While admitting the rarity of dumping wastewater on the surface, he says an exception was made in the West decades ago for ranchers who wanted water.  Shogren writes, "And in this arid land, any water is appreciated."

This supports my thesis of the under-regulation--and therefore relative lawlessness--of rural areas, and the particular lack of concern about Indian Country.  Read more here.   

Earlier stories about Wind River are here and here.     

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