The Trillion-Gallon Loophole 

Drillers that inject pollutants into the earth face lax rules.

Page 6 of 6

When violations are identified – such as the 140 times waste was illegally injected and noted in the regulatory reports – the consequences can be minimal, and only in rare cases do transgressions rise to the level of criminal prosecution. In the three years of national data reviewed by ProPublica, which included more than 24,000 formal notices of violations, only one case was referred to criminal investigators.

Usually, violations result in citations or informal warnings. If operators do not address violations, then modest fines may be levied; in some cases, wells are temporarily shut down. There is no central source of information on the size of fines, but an audit of Louisiana’s injection program provides a glimpse: In 2011, the state collected an average of $158 for each violation.

After three deaths, two federal worker safety investigations and a criminal prosecution, few injection sites nationwide received as much regulatory scrutiny as those in Rosharon, Texas. Yet, despite all the attention, the wells there later failed on the most basic level.

On Feb. 17, 2010, thousands of gallons of waste that had been deposited into these wells gurgled to the surface in what the Railroad Commission described as a “breakout.” Materials injected far below the earth had managed to migrate back up to the surface, perhaps through an old well missed by regulators.

As of this June, investigators were still analyzing whether the chemicals injected underneath the site had reached water supplies.

This report was originally published on ProPublica.org.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Anonymous and pseudonymous comments will be removed.

Latest in Eco Watch — Web Only

  • Toxic Couches

    Flame retardants on the rise in furniture, study finds.
    • Nov 28, 2012
  • More »

Most Popular Stories

Special Reports

Taste, Fall 2016

Everything you need to know about dining in and out in the East Bay.

The Queer & Trans Issue 2016

Queer and trans coverage contributed by individuals who identify as queer or trans.

© 2016 East Bay Express    All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation