US House committee chair asks EPA about groundwater agreement

Nick Snow
Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 27 -- A US House committee chairman raised new questions about whether the Environmental Protection Agency is effectively monitoring a 2003 memorandum of agreement intended to eliminate injection of diesel fuel into underground drinking water.

Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said that Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA's assistant administrator for water, described the MOA between EPA and the three biggest US oil field service companies during a hearing by the committee on Oct. 31.

"This MOA, which appears unenforceable, had been executed to address EPA's concerns that benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene (the BTEX compounds) were being introduced into underground sources of drinking water during hydraulic fracturing activities," Waxman wrote in a Nov. 26 letter to Grumbles.

He said written testimony submitted by Grumbles said the companies (BJ Services Co., Halliburton Energy Services Inc., and Schlumberger Technology Corp.) "have certified in written reports that they have converted to nondiesel fluids and are in full compliance with the MOA." Grumbles also testified orally that EPA "was monitoring to see if the three signatories were living up to that agreement" on "an annual basis," according to Waxman.

'Informal e-mails'
"Contrary to your testimony, however, the documents EPA has provided to the committee to support your testimony are not certified statements of compliance. Rather, they are three informal e-mails from the companies," he wrote in his letter to Grumbles.

Waxman said the e-mail messages show that EPA contacted the companies to determine whether they were continuing to comply with the MOA 2 days before the hearing. Only Halliburton responded by Oct. 30 when EPA submitted Grumbles's written testimony to the committee. The other two arrived at EPA the morning of the hearing, the lawmaker said.

"Your testimony also states that 'the three companies . . . have converted to nondiesel fluids.' Of the three responding companies, however, only BJ Services explicitly states that diesel fuel is no longer used. This is relevant because a company can be in compliance with the MOA and still use diesel fuel as a fracturing fluid," Waxman continued.

In his Oct. 31 appearance before the committee, Grumbles said the three service companies voluntarily agreed to quit using diesel fuel in their fracturing fluids in 2004 after a study by EPA, the US Department of Energy, US Geological Survey, and several states found that diesel posed the only significant health risk in coalbed methane fracturing operations. The 2005 Energy Policy Act specifically exempted hydraulic fracking of CBM from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act as long as diesel fuel was not used, the EPA official added.

'Less than impressive'
Waxman said Grumbles "assured the Congress and the public that the 2003 MOA was being actively monitored and complied with. But the basis of your statement appears to be less than impressive: a hastily collected set of three e-mails amounting to just half a dozen sentences. If EPA has a solid basis for its assurances that these companies are not using diesel fuel when fracturing oil and gas wells, please provide it to the committee," he told the EPA official. He requested a response by Dec. 16.

He also wrote letters to chief executives J.W. Stewart of BJ Services, David J. Lesar of Halliburton Co. and Andrew Gould of Schlumberger Ltd. requesting documents showing the number of wells the company hydraulically fractured in each state in 2005, 2006, and 2007; the identity and total volume of chemicals and other products used in such operations; the percentage of products recovered from such operations if available; and any documents related to the products' environmental effects by Dec. 17.

Waxman also wrote a letter to Randy Eresman, president and chief executive of Encana Corp. in Calgary, requesting the same information he sought from the service companies by the same deadline. The independent producer was mentioned during the committee's Oct. 31 hearing, where some witnesses alleged illnesses from oil and gas operations in the Rocky Mountains.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

PHMSA proposes pipeline accident notification regulations

07/02/2015 The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has proposed new federal oil and gas pipeline accident and notification regulations. ...

FourPoint Energy to acquire Anadarko basin assets from Chesapeake

07/02/2015 FourPoint Energy LLC, a privately owned Denver company, plans to acquire oil and gas assets from Chesapeake Energy Corp. subsidiaries Chesapeake Ex...

Puma Energy completes purchase of Murco’s UK refinery, terminals

07/02/2015 Singapore-based Puma Energy Group Pte. has completed its purchase of UK midstream and downstream assets from Murco Petroleum Ltd., a subsidiary of ...

BP to settle federal, state Deepwater Horizon claims for $18.7 billion

07/02/2015 BP Exploration & Production Inc. has agreed in principle to settle all federal and state claims arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon inciden...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX oil prices plummet on crude inventory build, Iran deadline extension

07/02/2015 Oil prices plummeted more than $2/bbl July 1 to settle at a 2-month low on the New York market after a weekly government report showed the first ri...

API to issue recommended practice to address pipeline safety

07/01/2015 The American Petroleum Institute expects to issue a new recommended practice in another few weeks that addresses pipeline safety issues, but the tr...

Shell Midstream Partners takes interest in Poseidon oil pipeline

07/01/2015 Shell Midstream Partners LP has completed its acquisition of 36% equity interest in Poseidon Oil Pipeline Co. LLC from Equilon Enterprises LLC, a s...

SIBUR plans MTBE expansion at Togliattikauchuk

07/01/2015 Russian conglomerate OAO SIBUR Holding, Moscow, has started preparatory work for a project designed to expand production capacity for methyl tertia...

Shell makes FID on Appomattox deepwater development in Gulf of Mexico

07/01/2015 Royal Dutch Shell PLC has taken a final investment decision (FID) on the Appomattox deepwater development, authorizing construction and installatio...
White Papers

Solutions to Financial Distress Resulting from a Weak Oil and Gas Price Environment

The oil and gas industry is in the midst of a prolonged worldwide downturn in commodity prices. While ...
Sponsored by

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts


The Resilient Oilfield in the Internet of Things World

When Tue, Sep 22, 2015

As we hear about the hype surrounding the Internet of Things, the oil and gas industry is questioning what is different than what is already being done. What is new?  Using sensors and connecting devices is nothing new to our mode of business and in many ways the industry exemplifies many principles of an industrial internet of things. How does the Internet of Things impact the oil and gas industry?

Prolific instrumentation and automation digitized the industry and has changed the approach to business models calling for a systems led approach.  Resilient Systems have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining their central purpose.  A resilient system, such as Maximo, allows an asset intensive organization to leverage connected devices by merging real-time asset information with other critical asset information and using that information to create a more agile organization.  

Join this webcast, sponsored by IBM, to learn how about Internet of Things capabilities and resilient systems are impacting the landscape of the oil and gas industry.

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Taking the Headache out of Fuel License and Exemption Certificates: How to Ensure Compliance

Tue, Aug 25, 2015

This webinar, brought to you by Avalara, will detail the challenges of tax document management, as well as recommend solutions for fuel suppliers. You will learn:

-    Why it’s critical to track business partner licenses and exemption documents
-    The four key business challenges of ensuring tax compliance through document management
-    Best practice business processes to minimize exposure to tax errors

register:WEBCAST


Driving Growth and Efficiency with Deep Insights into Operational Data

Wed, Aug 19, 2015

Capitalizing on today’s momentum in Oil & Gas requires operational excellence based on a clear view of what your business data is telling you. Which is why nearly half* of oil and gas companies have deployed SAP HANA or have it on their roadmap.

Join SAP and Red Hat to learn more about using data to drive process improvements and identify new opportunities with the SAP HANA platform running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. This webinar will also show how your choice of infrastructure impacts the performance of core business applications and your ability to achieve data-driven insights quickly and reliably.

*48% use SAP, http://go.sap.com/solution/industry/oil-gas.html

register:WEBCAST


OGJ's Midyear Forecast 2015

Fri, Jul 10, 2015

This webcast is to be presented by OGJ Editor Bob Tippee and Senior Economic Editor Conglin Xu.  They will summarize the Midyear Forecast projections in key categories, note important changes from January’s forecasts, and examine reasons for the adjustments.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected