EPA’s one-state regs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering new regulations on the disposal of wastewater from oil and gas drilling to deal with a problem that may exist only in a one state — Pennsylvania.

Great. It’s that kind of thinking that causes many business people to jump on the anti-regulation bandwagon.

The rules in question would be designed to regulate the disposal of hydraulic fracking fluids and other drilling wastes into municipal wastewater treatment facilities, which aren’t equipped to handle the fluids.

But, as David Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, noted, that situation appears to be unique to Pennsylvania. It doesn’t occur in Colorado or other Western states. So the rules would have little affect on drilling in Colorado.

Except that they add to regulatory uncertainty for the industry.

It’s been clear for several years that some groups want the EPA to become more involved in regulating hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Bills to that effect have stalled in Congress, but folks in the energy industry may very well wonder if these proposed rules are the first step by the federal agency to regulate fracking.

Moreover, as we have argued previously, it makes little sense to enact nationwide, one-size-fits-all rules when states like Colorado have already taken the lead in regulating drilling fluids.

The EPA should work with Pennsylvania to remedy its problem, not use that issue as an excuse to create nationwide rules.


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