Lochghelly Injection Well
8:08 am
Fri March 14, 2014

W.Va. DEP Orders Fayette Co. Frack Waste Permit Revoked

Above ground waste pits sit close to the underground injection wells in Fayette County.

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The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has ordered a permit for an underground injection well in Fayette County to be revoked.

The DEP renewed the permit for a class two (UIC), or underground injection control disposal well owned by Danny Webb Construction on February 6.

The permit allows the company to accept fluids from oil and gas exploration, development drilling, and production fluids for another five years. 

Since then, the Rist Law Office in Fayetteville filed an appeal requesting the D.E.P. to reverse the permit.

Tom Rist is representing the Natural Resource Defense Council, the West Virginia Surface Owners' Rights Organization, the Plateau Action Network and citizen Brad Keenan.

“I think this is very important especially for this area," Rist said. "Fayetteville is near and dear to the hearts of a lot of people in West Virginia." 

On March 4, the DEP issued an order to revoke the permit. In an email James Martin with the Office of Oil and Natural Gas said the office made the decision after the permit “received significant public interest.”

Martin went on to say, “Consequently, as we were verifying information associated with the issuance we discovered procedural issues regarding certain notices and felt that the prudent direction would be the revocation of the permit and a re-start of the process.”

The company’s original permit expired in October 2012, still the operator continued to collect waste.

Groups say that’s against state and federal law.

In a public hearing in June 2013, several residents and even former employers expressed their concerns about the site, especially the open above ground waste pits which the DEP admitted were at risk of leaking.

The DEP found that the pit above ground does not meet the minimum pit and impoundment standards. So when the DEP granted the underground (UIC) permit on February 6, the office ordered the pit shut down.

The Natural Resource Defense Council says the problem with this site in Fayette County is the same for fracking disposal systems across the country. Federal law that governs hazardous materials has a loophole for oild and gas waste, exempting it from regulation as hazardous waste. That exemption was created in 1980’s with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

"These chemicals are toxic and radioactive," Fayetteville resident Mary Rahall said. "They should be regulated just as the coal industry’s regulated there’s no reason in the world they shouldn’t be. I think it comes back to public health people should be more focused on public health instead of dollars."

Studies have found dangerous levels of radioactive material in both solid and liquid waste streams from  ‘fracking’ sites, as well as alarming organic contaminants like benzene.

The NRDC is supporting the `CLEANER Act’ or the `Closing Loopholes and Ending Arbitrary and Needless Evasion of Regulations Act of 2013' that would eliminate the loophole.

Rahall requested her county officials to enact an ordinance that would ban fracking waste. She was disappointed to receive a memo from the Fayette County prosecuting attorney’s office stating that the county has no authority to control matters that fall under federal or state laws. 

States across the country are continuing to adapt and choose directions for regulatory oversight. A recent article published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology examined how three states were developing with fracking policies.

Texas, a state with deep ties to the oil industry, is cited as having successfully created local ordinances while Pennsylvania is more prone to develop state policies. According to the article, Colorado’s policies falls somewhere in the middle.

The journal concludes that industry relationships and political climate along with sheer attention to the matter influence regulatory decisions.

Tom Rist says he plans to file another appeal because the language of the DEP’s new revocation order is somehow almost exactly like the granted permit allowing the operator to continue to collect waste unpermitted.

Danny Webb Construction did not immediately return our request for comment.