Federal Court Strikes Rule Exempting Oil and Gas Projects from Clean Water Rules

Statement of Sharon Buccino, NRDC Senior Attorney
SAN FRANCISCO (May 23, 2008) – A federal court struck down a rule exempting oil and gas development projects from pollution-prevention requirements of the Clean Water Act. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency in a case brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The decision will help protect thousands of streams throughout the West from sediment contamination caused by energy exploration and development, according to NRDC.
Following is a statement by Sharon Buccino, senior attorney at NRDC:
“It is well known that sediment pollution from oil and gas development can impair water quality and destroy aquatic habitat. Yet under the guise of enforcing the 2005 Energy Act, EPA exempted projects from the requirements of the Clean Water Act. Today, the court rightly decided that the EPA rule was arbitrary and capricious. The law clearly requires oil and gas projects ensure that their activities do not contribute to violations of water quality standards. 
“The explosion of oil and gas exploration and production poses a serious threat to water quality throughout the West. Sediment from projects runs off into streams and rivers; harming aquatic life; increasing water treatment costs for towns and cities; decreasing property values;  clogging irrigation systems and interfering with recreational activities, such as fishing.”
For more information about exemptions in federal environmental laws for the oil and gas industry, see the NRDC report, “Drilling Down: Protecting Western Communities from the Health and Environmental Effects of Oil and Gas Pollution” at www.nrdc.org/land/use/down/contents.asp.