O&G Industry Group Intervenes in EPA Lawsuit

Polaris Sensor Technologies

Law firm Haynes and Boone on Aug. 4 said that its lawyers have filed a motion on behalf of the Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO) to intervene in a lawsuit brought by a group of environmental organizations seeking to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt stricter oil and gas waste regulations.

According to the firm, the motion argues that the environmental groups are trying to compel the EPA to exceed its authority and that the current Texas programs to manage oil and gas waste disposal are the most robust in the country.

“The Texas program has been approved by the EPA 17 times — an average of once every two years,” Dallas Partner Suzanne Murray said in a statement. “The relief being sought here goes beyond the authority that Congress granted the EPA under Subtitle D, so the court cannot order to it to act the way that the plaintiffs are requesting.”

Haynes and Boone said that, by filing the case (Background Environmental Integrity Project et al v. McCarthy) in federal court, the coalition is asking the EPA to establish rules to ban companies from spreading fracking wastewater on roads or fields and require disposal landfills and ponds to be constructed to prevent pollutants from leaking into groundwater. In addition, the groups argue that under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the EPA must review and revise federal regulations for oil and gas waste disposal every three years. They also want the agency to develop regulations on fracking wastewater disposal in underground injection wells, a practice some have attempted to link to earthquakes in some states.

Allen Gilmer, TIPRO chair and CEO of Drillinginfo, said in a statement that current rules are more than adequate.

“The Texas Railroad Commission and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality require our industry to comply with a comprehensive set of regulations that contain numerous safeguards related to the management of oil and gas waste,” he said. “This extensive regulatory framework far exceeds the minimum requirements mandated under the RCRA hazardous waste program.”

TIPRO President Ed Longanecker added that the plaintiffs are likely operating in cooperation with the EPA.

“This lawsuit is an example of the sue-and-settle tactics used by anti-oil and natural gas organizations in a larger effort to slow or stop the development of hydrocarbons in our country,” he said. “This is yet another attempt to compel the EPA to exceed its regulatory authority with the ultimate goal of reaching a settlement to fuel additional activist campaigns, all at the expense of taxpayers.”

According to Haynes and Boone, Murray and TIPRO believe that the EPA and the plaintiffs will oppose the motion, but that the court will ultimately grant intervention because there are issues of law presented in the case that directly impact oil and gas producers in Texas. —JD

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