Texas Aquifer Exemptions

August 25, 2016
Pumpjacks with a methane flare in the background. Photo credit: Leonid Ikan / Shutterstock

The Railroad Commission of Texas has failed to implement Safe Drinking Water Act protections and allowed injection activity into underground sources of drinking water — removing them from future supplies at a time of rapid population growth and recurrent drought.

The Commission has deemed federal regulations for aquifer exemptions “inapplicable” to Texas oil and gas operations, despite agreeing, in 1982, to federal oversight of aquifer exemptions in a Memorandum of Agreement with EPA. Producing oil fields were given blanket approvals to inject fluids into potential drinking water sources regardless of water quality in 1982, yet a map or list of these areas was never released.

Over the last 30 years of underground injection activity, no subsequent applications for aquifer exemptions were ever filed. This disregard for federal requirements has led to decades of confusion, potential illegal injection and increased risk to drinking water. The Railroad Commission effectively prioritized the concerns of the oil and gas industry over the long term drinking water needs of Texas residents.

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