EPA Releases Draft Study on Produced Water for Public Comment

On Wednesday, May 15, EPA released a draft study on produced water from oil and gas extraction, and is seeking public comment on the draft by July 1st. This draft study takes a holistic look at how the agency, states, tribes, and others view the current state of regulation and management of wastewater from the oil and gas industry and provides insight into how this wastewater might be returned to beneficial use in the water cycle.

In May 2018, EPA announced the initiation of a Study of Oil and Gas Extraction Wastewater Management. The agency conducted a robust outreach effort to gather input from state, tribal, industrial, academic, environmental, public health and other entities for the study. This included meeting with individual entities, accepting written input through a public docket on regulations.gov, and hosting a national public meeting in October 2018 to report on what EPA had learned to date and to provide stakeholders an additional opportunity to provide input. The draft study summarizes what EPA heard and the public comments received from this outreach.

Comments should be submitted by July 1st to oil-and-gas-study@epa.gov. EPA is particularly interested in public input on the following questions:

  • What non-regulatory steps should EPA take to encourage re-use/recycle of produced water?
  • Considering the cost of transporting and treating produced water, would revising 40 CFR Part 435 to allow for broader discharge of produced water shift the manner in which produced water is currently handled?
  • Should EPA continue to distinguish between discharges from onshore oil and gas facilities located East and West of the 98th meridian or establish a national policy irrespective of geographic location?
  • What steps could EPA take that might incent re-use of produced water within and outside of the oilfield?

The study does not announce or discuss any regulatory efforts regarding oil and gas extraction wastewater. The information in the study and associated public statements will help EPA determine of any future actions are appropriate to further address oil and gas extraction wastewater. EPA anticipates finalizing the study and announcing any next steps later in 2019.