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GAO Report on EPA’s UIC Class II Well Program Oversight

GAO has released a report entitled, “Drinking Water:  EPA Needs to Collect Information and Consistently Conduct Activities to Protect Underground Sources of Drinking Water.”  The GAO study reviewed EPA’s oversight of the Underground Injection Control (UIC) Class II program’s inspection and enforcement information and activities.  This review was prompted by the recent increase in oil and gas production and resultant wastewater; the majority of which is injected into Class II wells.  The report found that EPA has not collected specific inspection and complete or consistent enforcement information, or consistently conducted oversight activities, to assess whether state and EPA-managed UIC Class II programs are protecting underground sources of drinking water.  More specifically:

  • EPA annually collects summary data from state and EPA-managed programs on the types of inspections they conduct. However, these data are not specific enough to determine the number of different types of inspections that states and EPA regions are to conduct to meet their annual goals.
  • EPA collects information on unresolved significant violations of state and EPA-managed programs to determine if the agency needs to take action to enforce applicable program requirements. However, GAO’s analysis of a non-generalizable sample of 93 significant violations for fiscal years 2008 through 2013 found that state and EPA-managed programs did not report data on such violations completely or consistently.

GAO recommends that, among other things, EPA require programs to report well-specific inspections data, clarify guidance on enforcement data reporting, and analyze the resources needed to oversee programs. While EPA generally agreed with GAO’s findings, the Agency does not plan to require well specific data and analyze what resources may be needed.  Therefore, the implications of these findings for states with primacy for UIC Class II wells and ongoing hydraulic fracturing activities is unclear at this time, but should be noted in the event that this issue continues to be spotlighted as a concern for underground drinking water sources.  For more information, contact Alfredo Gomez of GAO at gomezj@gao.gov or 202-512-3841 or go to the following links:

Report: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-281

Highlights: http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/675440.pdf

Podcast: http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/675682