Report: As Toxic Oil & Gas Waste Streams Increase, Industry Pushes for Even Less Regulation

Research suggests volume of fracking waste containing undisclosed chemicals will grow for decades

Washington, DC — Today, Earthworks released Still Wasting Away, an investigation of waste from oil and gas drilling and fracking. The report found that major loopholes in waste management remain even after years of documented pollution. Furthermore, research shows that the volume of waste is increasing per well and per unit of energy.

“Even if we stop all new drilling and fracking immediately, the flood of toxic waste streams will continue to grow for decades,” said Melissa Troutman, lead author of the report. “In spite of industry claims of innovation, the risks from oil and gas waste are getting worse, not better.”

The report details how state and federal agencies have failed to keep up with the waste problem, leading to pollution of land and water. What’s more, as communities struggle with the influx of oil and gas waste streams that contain radioactive and carcinogenic elements, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering changes to federal policy that widen loopholes for the industry and allow oil and gas waste to be discharged to rivers and crop fields.

“Industry lobbyists secured a ‘special’ designation for oil and gas wastes that exempt it from our national hazardous waste safeguards,” said Aaron Mintzes, Earthworks Senior Policy Counsel. “Oil and gas waste is indeed ‘special,’ it is especially toxic, but that means it should require more oversight, not less.”

The report takes an in-depth look at:

  • Where oil and gas waste is going
  • What disposal of oil and gas waste means for our water and land
  • How communities are affected by waste production, transport, treatment and disposal
  • What policies need to change to protect the public and environment.

The report also offers several recommendations to address the growing waste problem, including reclassification of oil and gas wastes as hazardous, comprehensive policy and enforcement reform, improved waste tracking and publicly available reporting systems, improved waste treatment facilities and fracking chemical disclosure.

This national report precedes state specific reports for New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, North Dakota and California, which will be released later this year.

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