Paperwork: IOGCC-Spawned Loophole Creating Frackquake Crisis Faces Federal Lawsuit

On Could four, several environmental organizations filed a lawsuit towards liquid chlorine storage tank the U.S. Environmental Protection Company (EPA), calling for an end to the regulatory exemption it carved out within the late 1980s for the oil and fuel business almost about how it handles industrial waste.

Picture Credit score: United States Geological Survey

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That exemption to the Resource Conservation and Restoration Act (RCRA) of 1976, a current DeSmog investigation showed, was pushed within the forefront almost from day considered one of RCRA’s passage by the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Fee (IOGCC). IOGCC is a U.S. Congress-chartered interstate compact consisting of U.S. oil and gas producing states, with a membership roll that features state-stage regulators, trade lobbyists and executives.

The EPA, which granted the oil and gasoline industry the RCRA exemption in 1988, serves as an IOGCC affiliate member.

An ongoing DeSmog investigation into IOGCC has exhibited that it typically behaves like an unregistered lobbying node for the oil and gas industry. DeSmog has also obtained more paperwork, published right here for the first time, revealing IOGCC’s function in pushing for and creating the RCRA loophole.

IOGCC: RCRA “Is Pretty Scary”

The just lately-published DeSmog piece showed that Don Clay, who now works for Koch Industries as its Managing Director of Environmental and Regulatory Affairs, headed up EPA’s Workplace of Solid Waste and Emergency Response at the time the company carved out the RCRA exemption after years of IOGCC- and trade-huge lobbying. Initially, the exemption existed as part of the Stable Waste Management Act of 1980, referred to as the Bentsen Modification due to the late U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen’s (D-TX) championing of the clause.

Lee Fuller, the lead staffer who worked on that subject for Bentsen at the time of the modification’s passage, now works as a senior lobbyist for the Impartial Petroleum Association of America (IPAA). IPAA served as the creator and still oversees the controversial fracking front group, Vitality in Depth (EID), which has written 144 blog posts in recent years belittling the hyperlink between injecting fracking wastewater and the earthquakes this could cause.

EID printed a report in November 2015 that attempted to sow seeds of doubt between the hyperlink between oil and fuel waste injection and earthquakes, which got here out simply over a month after IOGCC unveiled an analogous primer at its annual meeting in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

A letter lately obtained by DeSmog from the Oklahoma State University’s Henry L. Bellmon Senatorial Papers collection demonstrates that IOGCC’s then-chairman and North Dakota Governor George Sinner faxed a letter on IOGCC letterhead to Bellmon in July 1987, a few months after the EPA published the first draft of its report making suggestions to Congress about what to do in regards to the oil and fuel wastes problem, positing that “oil and gas producing states will suffer extreme economic injury if this is allowed to occur.”

That letter ended with a name to action, with Sinner asking Bellmon to contact the EPA and Congressional members and specific this similar sentiment. “Henry, this thing is pretty scary — do what you may!,” Sinner wrote at the underside of the letter.

Image Credit score: Oklahoma State College Henry L. Bellmon Senatorial Papers

Inside a year, IOGCC had received the RCRA exemption that serves as the topic of the current lawsuit. IOGCC did not respond to a request for comment for this story. Steve Everley of EID informed EnergyWire that he believes the lawsuit is a “fallacious stunt.”

However that’s all just the obligatory backstory. What concerning the lawsuit itself, who’re the plaintiffs and what have they demanded?

The Lawsuit

The plaintiffs for the case — filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia — embrace teams starting from the Environmental Integrity Project, Pure Sources Protection Council, Earthworks, Middle for Health, Surroundings & Justice, West Virginia Citizen Action Group d/b/a West Virginia Floor Homeowners’ Rights Organization, Accountable Drilling Alliance, and the San Juan Citizens Alliance.

EPA, say the plaintiffs, was alleged to assessment and amend oil and gasoline trade’s RCRA exemption every three years underneath U.S. legislation.

“Defendant is beneath a nondiscretionary and continuing obligation to evaluation and, the place essential, revise the rules ‘not less continuously than every three years (forty two U.S.C. ยง 6912(b)),” reads the complaint. “EPA has not reviewed the…laws for oil and gasoline wastes since July 6, 1988. Since that time, nine successive three-yr deadlines have handed with no further assessment.”

However that did not happen, largely as it turns out, on account of IOGCC’s influence peddling.

What exists as an alternative of EPA self-audits every three years is something referred to as STRONGER (State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations), a company overseen by IOGCC and different stakeholders that since the late 1980s has carried out voluntary audits of assorted features of state-degree oil and fuel regulatory applications.

The plaintiffs have requested the EPA to finish the oil and fuel trade’s RCRA loophole and amend it to reflect the trendy-day shale oil and gasoline exploration and production growth.

Image Credit: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

STRONGER and Weaker Laws

STRONGER’s initial name was the Council on Regulatory Needs, which received off the ground with $300,000 in EPA seed money. Paperwork obtained by DeSmog from the Archives and Particular Collections of latest Mexico State College Library present that Jerry Simmons, now executive director for the Nationwide Association of Royalty House owners, served as employees director for the Council while also working as IOGCC’s affiliate director.

Image Credit score: Archives and Particular Collections, New Mexico State University Library

Further, the new Mexico State College documents also convey that Randy Bruton — then head of regulatory affairs for Mitchell Vitality, the company that pioneered industrial-scale fracking in the U.S. (since bought out by Devon Energy) — served as one among two trade representatives to the Council.

Quick-forwarding to the twenty first Century, 2012 Republican Occasion presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama — the latter heeding the suggestions of his business-loaded Division of Power fracking advisory committee — have advocated for the arms-off STRONGER method.

STRONGER can also be advocated for by firms like Range Resources and lobbying groups like America”s Pure Gas Alliance and American Petroleum Institute (now merged).

A 2004 letter obtained by DeSmog from the State Historic Society of North Dakota’s Governor John Hoeven Records shows that, at that point in time, API funded STRONGER to the tune of $250,000 per yr.

In a 1990 memorandum obtained by DeSmog from the University of Texas’ Briscoe Heart for American Historical past, the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Homeowners (TIPRO) admitted the actual cause for STRONGER (then nonetheless the Council for Regulatory Needs): more or less, public relations.

“If the [IOGCC] recommendations persuade Congress that states are making a good religion effort to strengthen their rules the place strengthened rules are acceptable, then we stand a good chance of preserving our…exemption and avoiding new federal involvement,” reads the memo. “TIPRO has been working closely with the [IOGCC] examine group. Our hope is that the [IOGCC] suggestions may help Congress make the correct choices and that states is not going to feel pressured to take actions that could destroy the flexibility of unbiased producers to make a residing.”

In that same memo, TIPRO additionally mentioned it was “very lucky” to have Bruton on the Council, who on the time also served as a member of TIPRO’s Environmental Committee.

“Toxic Mess”

The complaint additionally paperwork the human well being and environmental impacts of the RCRA loophole above and past simply producing report numbers of earthquakes. The ever-evolving RCRA tale, with this lawsuit and the continuing Sierra Club v. Chesapeake Working LLC, Et Al lawsuit serving as the newest chapter, provide an excellent case research of IOGCC’s long-time period, actual world impacts.

Amy Mall, senior coverage analyst on the Pure Assets Defense Council, stated in a press launch that it all quantities to a “toxic mess” in want of a authorized fixing.

“Waste from the oil and fuel business is very often toxic and should be handled that approach,” mentioned Mall. “Right now, companies can eliminate their toxic mess in any variety of dangerous ways–from spraying it on icy roads, to sending it to landfills with our on a regular basis family trash, to injecting it underground where it will possibly endanger drinking water and trigger earthquakes.

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