Kansas Supports EPA Repeal of Oil and Gas Waste Exemption

Date: November 16, 2011

Source: News Room

Kansas is breaking rank with other oil and gas producing states and aligning with environmental groups to urge EPA to lift a longstanding exemption for exploration and production (E&P) wastes from strict Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste rules, fearing adverse environmental and agricultural impacts from land disposal of the waste. "It's so rare that I'll ask EPA to come up with something beyond general guidelines, but whatever laws allow this to be exempted needs to re-looked at because states like ours are going be unable to proceed with the exemptions in place," Bill Bider, director of the Kansas Department of Health & Environment's (KDHE) Bureau of Waste Management, said during an Oct. 27 meeting of state waste regulators. Bider said the exemption could limit burgeoning natural gas operations because state permit writers do not know how to handle E&P wastes from the operations. Kansas' dilemma highlights a growing patchwork of discrepancies in how various oil and gas producing states across the country are electing to deal with waste management issues absent blanket EPA rules. The Kansas position is significant in that it challenges the premise of the 1988 exclusion that the states were adequately regulating the industry.

EPA in 1988 issued a finding that E&P waste from oil and gas facilities should not be subject to RCRA hazardous waste rules. Bider's comments show that Kansas environmental officials are pushing for a reevaluation of that finding because it could set strict disposal requirements protecting against harm from disposal of the waste.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a Sept. 8, 2010 petition asking EPA to repeal the 1988 finding that E&P wastes, namely those "intrinsically derived from primary field operations associated with the exploration, development or production of crude oil or natural gas" should be exempt from RCRA subtitle C hazardous waste rules.

EPA has yet to formally respond to the group's petition.

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