On Tuesday, April 7, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“USEPA”) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register for regulation of wastewater from unconventional oil and gas operations (“UOG”), which includes hydraulic fracturing. The rule, titled “Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Oil and Gas Extraction Point Source Category,” is a Clean Water Act (“CWA”) regulation and imposes pretreatment requirements for existing and new sources. In accordance with the prescribed standards, oil and gas operators would be required to pretreat their wastewater fluid before it is transferred into publicly owned utilities. The proposed rule contains technology-based pretreatment standards.
According to the USEPA, the need for the proposed rule stems from UOG extraction methods that produce wastewater. Such wastewater may contain constituents that are potentially harmful to human health and the environment. For example, the USEPA Fact Sheet states that this wastewater may contain high concentrations of salt content, or total dissolved solids (“TDS”). The purpose of the rule is to “protect human health and the environment and protect the operational integrity of publicly owned treatment works (“POTWs”).”
Because the requirements in the proposed rule merely reflect current industry practices, the USEPA “does not project the proposed rule will impose any costs or lead to pollutant removals.” Further, USEPA states that “[r]esponsible development of America’s oil and gas resources offers important economic, energy security, and environmental benefits.” The USEPA is accepting public comments on the proposed rule until June 8, 2015.