Why is Texas Oil & Gas Wastewater Being Injected in Sources of Drinking Water?

pump jacks / photo: shutterstock, huyangshu

Oil and gas companies in Texas have been injecting wastewater and other fluids in potential drinking water sources with a green light from the Railroad Commission.

And they still are. Find out more here.

Texas has been ignoring federal requirements to protect drinking water to make oil and gas development easier for decades. In a nod the oil industry’s massive influence in Texas, regulators waived federal requirements for companies to get an exemption from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in order to inject potentially toxic fluids into drinking water sources that could be used in the future.

The Railroad Commission gave the industry what it wanted instead of protecting the long term drinking water needs of Texas residents.

We found a huge lack of oversight and transparency, along with poor record keeping in the Railroad Commission’s Underground Injection Control Program. More needs to be done to protect drinking water as Texas deals with a growing population and recurrent drought.

The Railroad Commission of Texas has failed to implement Safe Drinking Water Act protections, as a result Clean Water Action is calling for a dramatic overhaul of aquifer exemption oversight in the Railroad Commission's UIC program including:

  • An immediate statewide moratorium on the approval of any injection well that meets the criteria for an aquifer exemption.
  • An immediate halt to injection activities that are occurring in USDWs, until all necessary aquifer exemptions are granted by EPA.
  • A complete inventory of all injection wells, including disposal wells into non-productive zones, to determine water quality information for the injection zone and to determine whether or not injection has occurred into USDWs.
  • The development of a process for submitting aquifer exemption applications to EPA that includes public notice and a public hearing and opportunities for public comment.
  • To undertake a comprehensive review of UIC regulations to ensure protections of USDWs and other future potential drinking water supplies
  • Read the report here

It's hard to summarize this issue better than The Texas Tribune headline recently reported - Texas Promised 34 Years Ago to Track Oilfield Waste in Aquifers. It Didn't.