Federal Water Tap, July 29: EPA Groundwater Protection Program Needs Better Oversight, Watchdog Says
In light of the steady rise in domestic oil and gas production, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should review new risks to underground sources of drinking water, according to the government’s internal watchdog.
The Government Accountability Office asserts that the EPA needs to improve two areas of oversight for the nation’s 172,000 class two underground injection wells. These are deep wells – often penetrating several thousand feet – that serve to increase the flow of oil and gas or to dispose of salty water.
First, the EPA should evaluate new risks from underground injection, such as the potential to cause earthquakes and high subterranean pressures that can propel the waste back to the surface, leading to a spill.
Second, the EPA should improve its oversight. The GAO recommends that the agency review its management guidelines, which date to the 1980s, in order to set clear priorities. The agency should also develop consistent rules for reporting data so that state-managed programs can be compared.
Decades of pumping the aquifers adjacent to the Rio Grande have caused the subsurface water to flow away from the river and toward the wells, the U.S. Geological Survey reports.
Albuquerque began importing water from the Colorado River in 2008 in order to wean itself from unsustainable groundwater use.
Idaho Water Bill
President Obama signed legislation that will allow the continued maintenance and operation of reservoirs and canals in two federally designated wilderness areas in Idaho.
Gulf Oil Spill Review
The Senate Commerce Committee will meet on Tuesday to gauge the progress of the Restore Act, a 2012 law that set up two funds for disbursing money from legal settlements related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Federal Water Tap is a weekly digest spotting trends in U.S. government water policy. To get more water news, follow Circle of Blue on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton
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