As Pruitt Guts Water Rules, EPA Will Allow Fracking Waste Dumping in the Gulf of Mexico

 By Mike LudwigTruthout | Report –

As the Trump administration moves to gut Obama-era clean water protections nationwide, an environmental group is warning the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that its draft pollution discharge permit for offshore drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico violates clean water laws because it allows operators to dump fracking chemicals and large volumes of drilling wastewater directly into the Gulf.

In a recent letter to the agency, the Center for Biological Diversity told the EPA that the dumping of drilling wastewater — which can contain fracking chemicals, drilling fluids and pollutants, such as heavy metals — directly into Gulf waters is unacceptable and prohibited under the Clean Water Act.

Under current rules established by the Obama administration, offshore oil and gas platforms can discharge well-treatment chemicals and unlimited amounts of “produced waters” from undersea wells directly into the Gulf as long as operators perform toxicity tests a few times a year and monitor for “sheens” on the water’s surface. About 75 billion gallons of produced water were dumped in the Gulf in 2014 alone, according to EPA records.

Offshore fracking, which typically involves injecting water and chemicals at high pressure into undersea wells to improve the flow of oil and gas, has rapidly expanded in the Gulf of Mexico over the past decade. The latest draft of the pollution discharge permit, which was largely prepared under the Obama administration, would require drillers to collect information on the fracking chemicals they dump overboard. Regulators want to know what these chemicals are; their catalogue of offshore fracking chemicals has not been updated since 2001, despite advancements in technology.

“It’s absolutely appalling that EPA is letting oil companies dump fracking wastewater into the Gulf without any idea of the types of chemicals being discharged, or their effects on sea turtles, sturgeon or the other marine life that call Gulf waters home,” said Kristen Monsell, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, in an email to Truthout.

The Center is also fighting offshore fracking off the coast of California, where a federal court on Friday rejected the Trump administration’s effort to dismiss legal challenges to fracking in the Santa Barbara Channel. The Center, along with other environmental groups and the state of California, argue in separate lawsuits that federal regulators did not do enough to study and mitigate the environmental impacts of offshore fracking before allowing operators to use the technology in Pacific waters.

The Center may have trouble convincing the EPA to change the draft pollution discharge permit for the Gulf of Mexico without taking the agency to court. Under the leadership of Scott Pruitt, a Trump-appointee with close ties to polluting industries, the EPA is working to gut environmental regulations with the explicit intent of maximizing fossil fuel production.

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Reprinted with permission from Truthout