Regulatory Developments, Special Topics in Environmental Management

Compliance Deadline Extended for UOG Wells

The EPA has issued a direct final rule extending the compliance deadline for onshore unconventional oil and gas (UOG) extraction wells subject to the Agency’s June 28, 2016, final pretreatment effluent limitations guidelines (ELGs). Under the direct final rule, UOG facilities—including wells that are hydraulically fractured—that were lawfully discharging to publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) between April 7, 2015, and June 28, 2016, have until August 29, 2019, to cease all UOG waste discharges to POTWs.

In its final ELGs for UOG facilities, the EPA said information it had reviewed indicated that there are no operators currently sending UOG wastewater to POTWs. Given this and other factors, the EPA said it was appropriate to establish a blanket prohibition on discharges of UOG extraction wastewater pollutants to POTWs. The EPA said it promulgated this regulation because onshore UOG extraction facilities have discharged to POTWs in the past and because the potential remains that some facilities could discharge to POTWs in the future. Given that the Agency was not aware that any UOG facilities were discharging to POTWs, the EPA required implementation of the ELGs on the rule’s effective date of August 29, 2016.

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