NEW YORK, NY — “‘The program is basically a paper tiger,’ said Mario Salazar, a former senior technical advisor to the Environmental Protection Agency who worked with its injection regulation program for 25 years. While wells that handle hazardous waste from other industries have been held to increasingly tough standards, Salazar said, Class 2 wells remain a gaping hole in the system. ‘There are not enough people to look at how these wells are drilled … to witness whether what they tell you they will do is in fact what they are doing.’
Thanks in part to legislative measures and rulemaking dating back to the late 1970s, material from oil and gas drilling is defined as nonhazardous, no matter what it contains. Oversight of Class 2 wells is often relegated to overstretched, understaffed state oil and gas agencies, which have to balance encouraging energy production with protecting the environment. In some areas, funding for enforcement has dropped even as drilling activity has surged, leading to more wells and more waste overseen by fewer inspectors.
‘Class 2 wells constitute a serious problem,’ said John Apps, a leading geoscientist and injection expert who works with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. ‘The risk to water? I think it’s high, partially because of the enormous number of these wells and the fact that they are not regulated with the same degree of conscientiousness.’”
— Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica