Texans know what theyre doing when it comes to safeguarding their drinking water
By John Tintera
AUSTIN Texas (Texas Insider Report) As a geologist whos spent decades regulating the energy industry Ive seen firsthand the extensive precautions that oil & gas companies take to avoid accidents and protect our water sources. Fortunately every available piece of scientific evidence shows that drilling particularly the technique known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking is safe.
This drilling technique has led to an unprecedented oil and gas revolution. In just the first quarter of 2019 Texas for the first time ever produced more than 5 million barrels of crude oil every day. The state accounts for an astounding 40 of all crude production in the United States.
Evidence indicates current safety regulations are already working and that theres no need to impede energy production by binding companies with additional red tape from the federal government.
That being said not too long ago the House Subcommittee on Energy & Mineral Resources held a hearing to investigate whether oil and gas drilling causes water pollution. Its a very important topic: If drilling pollutes our drinking water new restrictions would obviously be needed to safeguard public health.
But just look at my home state of Texas. Its by far Americas biggest energy producer and home to the 75000-square-mile Permian Basin the worlds most productive oil field. The Permian and other Texas oil fields use tons of water responsibly whether for hydraulic fracturing processing or refining.
How responsible are Texas drillers when it comes to water management?
Well there hasnt been a single documented case of groundwater contamination associated with fracking.
The cooperation between industry and Texas state regulators is chiefly responsible for this spotless safety record.
Texas state law is as crystal clear as its water. Texas outlaws any pollution of any and all bodies of water whether above or below ground period. The law defines pollution as any change at all to water that would make it harm humans animals plants property or public health in general.
There are numerous key laws - 13 total that serve as a regulatory framework to enforce the no-pollution rule.
- They outline rules for everything from how to drill to how to clean up a spill.
- They address almost every water protection concern that could arise from oil and gas production.
Take fracking a process which requires immense amounts of water.
There are rules to govern how practitioners drill what cement and casings they use and how they control their wells. Additionally they are required to continually monitor pressure levels beneath the surface and report malfunctions to inspectors.
Or consider waste disposal.
The Texas regulations protect surface and subsurface water from liquid and solid oil field waste. Injection wells the shafts that carry fluids down to porous underground rock formations are highly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and encased in multiple layers of cement to protect drinking water.
The EPA audits each injection well annually.
Regulators wouldnt be able to enforce these rules without a small army of state inspectors. There are hundreds of them in Texas that rove the oil fields to make sure everything is up to snuff. These outriders have access to all the online data they need to ensure proper inspection.
Companies are not only complying with the regulations; they are constantly finding new ways to protect water.
Operators in the Permian Basin are using new technologies like clean brine to make produced water clean enough to reuse. They are also building pipelines to wastewater treatment or recycling facilities and reusing produced water. The reused water is not only used for more drilling but can be used for community improvement like de-icing roads during winter.
And with todays new oilfield technologies some companies are finding novel ways to reuse and conserve water.
In 2016 one Texas-based energy company opened a 20-mile pipeline to receive treated municipal wastewater from Odessa Texas that can be used in all its operations. Reusing municipal wastewater reduced the companys reliance on freshwater needed in Odessa for drinking and compensates Odessa for once-useless waste.
Thanks to sensible regulations regular inspections and industry efforts Texas energy companies have little impact on the states water supply. A study by the state found that fracking accounts for less than 1 of total water use in the state far less than agriculture.
Texans know what theyre doing when it comes to safeguarding their drinking water.
Theres no need for Washington to impose additional needless regulations when the current ones are already working perfectly.
John Tintera a regulatory expert and licensed geologist spent over 20 years working for the main energy regulator in Texas the Texas Railroad Commission including serving as its Executive Director. He is currently president of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.