WHEELING - Federal regulators plan to prevent untreated frack water from being disposed in public water systems, but Ohio and West Virginia natural gas industry leaders said the new rules should not have much of impact.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will establish standards for frack water, the briny, chemical-laced water that flushes back up through the well after fracking is finished, that drillers would have to meet before sending it to public wastewater treatment plants.
"We can protect the health of American families and communities at the same time we ensure access to all of the important resources that make up our energy economy. The American people expect and deserve nothing less," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
The EPA has allowed individual states to regulate fracking operations to this point. The agency is in the midst of a national study of whether fracking has polluted groundwater and drinking water.
Deborah Goldberg, an attorney for the Earthjustice environmental advocacy group, applauded the planned frack water regulations.
"The EPA's proposal is a common sense solution for this growing public health problem and will help keep poisons out of our rivers, streams, and drinking water," she said.
However, Kathryn Klaber, president and executive director of the Canonsburg, Pa.-based Marcellus Shale Coalition, said the federal government should allow individual states to regulate frack water.
"It's baffling that the agency would move forward with such measures that completely disregard the facts on the ground," she said.
Corky DeMarco, executive director of West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas, said any new requirements on frack water sent to treatment plants should not affect Mountain State drillers because they no longer send the briny water to the plants.
Kathy Cosco, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, previously noted in 2009, state regulators informed wastewater plants that they would need to meet 41 parameters, in addition to those already imposed upon them, in order to accept the water.
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, bashed the Obama administration for making it more difficult for companies to create jobs.
"The U.S. EPA's involvement will only put up more barriers to job creation at a time when our national priority should be getting America back to work," he said.
Tom Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said the Buckeye State has not allowed water treatment plants to accept the briny liquid since 1985, noting it must go to in-ground injection wells or be recycled for continued use.