The U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released a report yesterday, July 28, 2014, that presents a need for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“USEPA”) to update the Underground Injection Control class II program (“UIC Program”). Under the UIC Program, the USEPA oversees and regulates groundwater affected by wells associated with oil and gas production. Specifically, the report identifies eight states, including California and Texas, where program updates by the USEPA are necessary. The report recommends incorporating state program requirements into federal regulations to ensure enforcement.
In February 2014, USEPA released updated guidance for the UIC Program, issuing the “Permitting Guidance for Oil and Gas Hydraulic Fracturing Activities Using Diesel Fuels.” More updates are needed for the program to ensure fracking fluids do not enter drinking water supplies. The report points out multiple flaws in the current program, including reporting deficiencies and inconsistent interpretations between various states. Additionally, the current UIC Program safeguards “do not address emerging underground injection risks, such as seismic activity and overly high pressure in geologic formations leading to surface outbreaks of fluids.” (Report, GAO-14-555.) USEPA has also failed to conduct consistent annual inspections. The report suggests integrating improved data collection and electronic records in order to “effectively oversee and efficiently enforce class II programs.” (Id.)