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Effluent Guidelines

Study of Oil and Gas Extraction Wastewater Management

""EPA is conducting a study that will take a holistic look at how the Agency, states, tribes and stakeholders regulate and manage wastewater from the oil and gas industry.

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Background

Large volumes of wastewater are generated in the oil and gas industry, and projections show that these volumes will only increase. Currently the majority of this wastewater is managed by disposing of it using a practice known as underground injection, where that water can no longer be accessed or used. The limits of injection are evident in some areas, and new approaches are becoming necessary. Some states and stakeholders are asking whether it makes sense to continue to waste this water, particularly in water scarce areas of the country, and what steps would be necessary to treat and renew it for other purposes.

Study Design

The focus of the Agency’s study will be to engage with states, tribes and stakeholders to consider available approaches to manage wastewater from both conventional and unconventional oil and gas extraction at onshore facilities. EPA’s study will address questions such as how existing federal approaches to produced waterHelpProduced waterThe fluid brought up from the hydrocarbon-bearing strata during the extraction of oil and gas, and includes, where present, formation water, injection water, and any chemicals added downhole or during the oil/water separation process. [40 CFR 435.33 (v)] management under the Clean Water Act can interact more effectively with state and tribal regulations, requirements or policy needs, and whether potential federal regulations that may allow for broader discharge of treated produced water to surface waters are supported. EPA is particularly interested in working with its regulatory partners at the state level, who are at the forefront of the changing industry, and often manage complex water allocation programs under state law.

Draft Study

EPA has developed a draft study that describes what it heard during its engagement for this study.

This draft study is available for review and public input until July 1, 2019. Submit comments to oil-and-gas-study@epa.gov. In addition, EPA is interested in public input regarding the following:
  • What non-regulatory steps should EPA take to encourage re-use/recycle of produced water?
  • Considering the cost of transporting and treating produced water, would revising 40 CFR Part 435 to allow for broader discharge of produced water shift the manner in which produced water is currently handled?
  • Should EPA continue to distinguish between discharges from onshore oil and gas facilities located East and West of the 98th meridian or establish a national policy irrespective of geographic location?
  • What steps could EPA take that might incent re-use of produced water within and outside of the oilfield?

The report does not announce or discuss any regulatory efforts regarding oil and gas extraction wastewater. The information in this report and associated public statements will help EPA determine of any future actions are appropriate to further address oil and gas extraction wastewater. EPA anticipates finalizing the study and announcing any next steps later in 2019.

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Public Meeting

EPA conducted a public meeting on October 9, 2018 to report on what it has learned to date and provide stakeholders the opportunity to provide additional input.

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Related Information

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Additional Information