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Water: Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic Fracturing Under the Safe Drinking Water Act

Natural gas plays a key role in our nation's clean energy future and the process known as hydraulic fracturing is one way of accessing that vital resource. Hydraulic fracturing is used by gas producers to stimulate wells and recover natural gas from sources such as coalbeds and shale gas formations. Hydraulic fracturing is also used for other applications including oil recovery. Over the past few years, several key technical, economic, and energy policy developments have spurred the increased use of hydraulic fracturing for gas extraction over a wider diversity of geographic regions and geologic formations. Along with the expansion of hydraulic fracturing, there have been increasing concerns about its potential impacts on drinking water resources, public health, and environmental impacts in the vicinity of these facilities.

The EPA has released an interpretive memorandum to clarify Underground Injection Control (UIC) program requirements under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), for underground injection of diesel fuels in hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas extraction.  The agency has also released technical guidance containing recommendations for EPA permit writers to consider in implementing these UIC Class II requirements.

The EPA has developed the memorandum and technical guidance to achieve the following objectives:
  • To explain that any owner or operator who injects diesel fuels in hydraulic fracturing for oil or gas extraction must obtain a UIC Class II permit before injection;
  • To explain the agency’s interpretation of the SDWA statutory term “diesel fuels” for permitting purposes; and,
  • To describe existing UIC Class II program requirements for permitting underground injection of diesel fuels in hydraulic fracturing and to provide recommendations for the EPA’s permit writers to consider in implementing these requirements to ensure protection of underground sources of drinking water (USDWs).

new Revised guidance and related documents:

Draft Guidance: Permitting Guidance for Oil and Gas Hydraulic Fracturing Activities Using Diesel Fuels

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See EPA's PDF page to learn more.

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