Typically, the dogs days of summer are a slow news time for environmental issues, but this summer has been an exception.
Hot on the heels (pun intended) of my last post on emerging claims to watch, EPA announced renewed interest in regulating per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). EPA held a National Leadership Summit in May to discuss how to regulate and remove PFAS in the soil and groundwater from historical releases.
At that summit, EPA announced a 4-step action plan:
- Evaluate the need for a maximum contaminant level for various PFAS in drinking water;
- Propose designating PFAS as “hazardous substances” under CERCLA (also known as Superfund);
- Develop groundwater cleanup recommendations; and
- Work with state and federal agencies to develop toxicity values for specific PFAS.
These steps most likely will increase the list of contaminants identified at cleanup sites. This means that investigation and cleanup costs could increase because additional chemicals will need to be addressed. In addition, Superfund sites will have additional contaminants identified, leading to additional responsible parties identified as the sources of PFAS.
Texas Railroad Commission Initiative
In June, the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) released its 2019 Oil & Gas Monitoring and Enforcement Plan. As part of this plan, the RRC set a goal to maintain its 158 oil and gas field inspectors, and these inspectors have been tasked to meet new, increased inspection targets. Specifically, all inland wells will be inspected at least once every five years, and wells in bays and offshore will be inspected at least once every two years. To put this in perspective, in 2017, 155,880 wells were inspected, and the RRC projects 176,000 to be inspected in 2019 – a roughly 13 percent increase.
With this increased emphasis on inspections, I encourage well operators to take advantage of the Audit Privilege program (Tex. Health & Safety Code Ch. 1101) and conduct a self-audit to identify and correct violations before the RRC does. Under the Audit Privilege program, operators who conduct self-audits can claim immunity from administrative penalties that are voluntarily discovered during the audit, reported to the RRC, and then promptly corrected.
Do you have questions or need assistance? I am here to help. I have a great deal of experience with self-audits in Texas and elsewhere and also can provide oversight of environmental consultants during site investigations and cleanups. I also can guide you through the self-audit process, which includes specific notification requirements. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay cool and watch for those school zones as classes begin in August.