Exposing Aquifer Exemptions

We are working to ensure that aquifers that could be used for drinking water are not sacrificed to the fossil fuel industry. Aquifer exemptions prioritize the fossil fuel industry over drinking water by writing off groundwater forever.

US Map with Aquifer Exemptions plotted

Sacrificing Water for Oil and Gas Profit

The Aquifer Exemption program in the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Underground Injection Control (UIC) program allows certain oil and gas and mining activity to occur in groundwater that would otherwise be protected as a drinking water source. 

New Report Raises Questions About Colorado Oil and Gas Injection Wells and Threat to Drinking Water Sources

“Turning over aquifers to fossil fuel companies for injection should only be done with the most extreme caution - if at all. Colorado regulators do not even keep a list of which aquifers have been handed over to the industry, and EPA’s list is full of holes,” said report author, Andrew Grinberg.

A New Report from Clean Water Action Provides a Roadmap to Better Protect Water from Oil and Gas Production

“For decades, the fossil fuel industry has exploited loopholes in the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts, allowing these companies to profit at the expense of our water and communities."

Regulating Oil & Gas Activities to Protect Drinking Water

When the U.S. Congress first passed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)  in 1974,  it authorized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a program to protect vital under- ground drinking water resources from risks of industrial activities in which fluid is injected

into the ground. However, Congress also included language mandating that EPA not “interfere with or impede” oil and gas production unless it is “absolutely essential” in order to protect underground sources of drinking water.

The regulatory and legislative history of the SDWA Underground Injection Control Program (UIC) demonstrates the impact of this language on the UIC program’s evolution.

From We All Live Downstream

Roadmap to Reform Report cover image
April 7, 2021

The oil and gas industry wields enormous political power. Massive spending on elections and lobbying, a relentless spin machine and agency capture at all levels of government have given fossil fuel companies outsized influence on our political, legislative and regulatory processes.