Groups sue EPA over oil, gas industry regulations update

Groups including the Environmental Integrity Project, the Natural Defence Council, Earthworks, Responsible Drilling Alliance, San Juan Citizens Alliance, West Virginia Surface Owners' Rights Organization and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice filed a lawsuit yesterday, against the Environmental Protection Agency, in a push to update waste regulations for the oil and gas industry.

They say outdated rules had led to an increase in earthquakes, groundwater contamination and other health and safety issues.

According to Adam Kron, senior attorney at the Environmental Integrity Project, the EPA had failed to protect the environment and the public as laws surrounding oil and gas industry waste had not been updated for 28 years, even as requirements had been set by Congress that it review the laws every three years.

He added, that in 1988, the EPA reviewed existing rules and reported that they needed to be updated. However, despite concerns expressed at the time about new technology and operation methods that needed to be addressed, the EPA had failed to issue the rules.

Instead, regulation of the industry, which has increased in size exponentially, had been left to the states, which had varying approaches to the problem, Kron said.

''Each well now generates millions of gallons of waste-water and hundreds of tons of solid wastes, and yet EPA's inaction has kept the most basic, inadequate rules in place,'' Kron said in a statement. ''The public deserves better than this.''

Meanwhile, the US Geological Survey (USGS), last month pointed to a dramatic increase in the number of earthquakes in the central and eastern US and said its studies ''have shown a strong connection'' between deep injections of fluids and increased earthquakes.

According to the USGS, it recorded an average of 21 quakes of magnitude three or more from 1973 to 2008. From 2009 to 2013, such quakes averaged 99 a year and in 2014 alone, there were 659.

According to the USGS' one year seismic forecast, north-central Oklahoma and southern Kansas now had earthquake-damage risks similar to parts of California.