The state of Idaho is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take over responsibility of managing oil and gas wastewater injection wells, also known as Class II injection wells, in Idaho. The wastewater is water that is mixed with oil and gas when it is brought to the surface. After processing the oil and gas to separate it from the water, the oil companies must figure out how to dispose of the water. This disposal currently involves trucking it off site to evaporation ponds because Class II injection wells are illegal in Idaho. However, that could all change with this transfer to the EPA.
What’s Motivating This Change?
Right now, Class II wells are managed by the Idaho Department of Water Resources through its Underground Injection Control (UIC) program. The UIC program is required under the Safe Drinking Water Act to keep contamination from being injected into our aquifers. Under existing federal law, it is illegal for state agencies to permit any oil and gas injection wells.
To change this, the state would have to update its entire UIC program, which includes also making changes to injection wells used for agricultural activities, known as Class V wells. Some of these Class V wells are out of compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. The state wants to avoid updating its entire program by transferring the oil and gas injection wells to the EPA.
Idaho Deserves Better
Across the nation, we’ve witnessed the risk of earthquakes and pollution of drinking water sources increase due to wastewater injection. We don’t want Idaho to become the next state having to deal with these issues. The use of Class II injection wells should be well thought out, with careful deliberation given to each issue, especially the health and well being of Idahoans. The purely economical choice preferred by an oil and gas company is likely not the best option for protecting public health and our environment.
We’re not sure which agency is better suited to manage Class II injection wells. If the EPA takes over though, Idaho will likely see a Class II injection well soon. Regardless of who manages the program, we want to ensure that public health and the environment are given the upmost consideration when permitting Class II injection wells. For example, here are some questions that need to be answered before any Class II injection well is even considered in Idaho:
- How will the EPA protect the drinking water of those who live nearby?
- What sort of monitoring will take place during injections?
- Who will be responsible for damages if an oil company goes bankrupt?
[Deadline is passed-our thanks to those who participated!]
We need you to speak up for environmentally responsible approaches to handling oil and gas wastewater. Here are two ways you can do that:
- Ask the EPA the questions above before the deadline on Thursday, Jan. 11.
- If you live close to Boise, you can also attend or testify at a public hearing Monday, Jan. 8, 2-5 pm. The hearing will be held at the Banner Bank Building, located at 950 W Bannock St, in Boise.