EPA has its “Eye on Drilling”

Waste pit on hydraulic fracturing site. Photo by TXsharon, Photobucket.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the establishment of a new tip line for citizens to report suspicious oil and natural gas drilling activities. Known as “Eyes on Drilling,” the program is designed to make the EPA aware of non-emergency but potentially illegal disposal of wastes or other suspicious activity related to drilling in communities.

This is a very welcome development and an excellent move on the part of the EPA. Unfortunately, many citizens do not know where to turn when it comes to reporting information about drilling violations. By streamlining this process, the EPA is empowering citizens to take energy development on or near them into their own hands. This is exactly the kind of collaboration that helps to make sure that natural gas and other energy development is “done right.”

By establishing this tip line, the agency is also making it clear that they are taking drilling violations very seriously. As the intensity of natural gas continues to increase with the discovery of many “unconventional” gas plays, especially in the East, environmental problems will result — water pollution issues in particular. Common problems and violations of law that might be reported include illegal dumping of wastes, illegal water use, and water pollution. As the press release notes, “While EPA doesn’t grant permits for oil and gas drilling operations, there are EPA regulations which may apply to the storage of petroleum products and drilling fluids. The agency is also very concerned about the proper disposal of waste products, and protecting air and water resources.”

With the increased use of a natural gas drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, in which thousands of gallons of chemicals, water, and sand are injected underground to stimulate gas extraction, it’s more important than ever that everyone involved in the drilling process is held accountable for making sure that families, communities, and special places are kept safe.

Anyone can call anonymously and toll-free to 1-877-919-4EPA or send an email to eyesondrilling@epa.gov. In the case of an emergency such as a spill, citizens are advised to call the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

For more information, please see the EPA’s tipline website.

photo: Waste pit on hydraulic fracturing site. Photo by TXsharon, Photobucket.