EPA requires California offshore drillers to disclose fracking fluids

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region 9, will require oil and gas operators engaged in hydraulic fracturing off the southern California coast to disclose all chemicals discharged into the Pacific Ocean beginning March 1, 2014. This disclosure requirement is part of a revised general permit for oil and gas operations in federal waters.

The revised permit requires all offshore drillers to maintain an inventory of the chemicals used to formulate well treatment, completion and workover fluids, and if there is a discharge of the fluids, to report the chemical formulation of the discharges (and the discharge volume) with the quarterly discharge monitoring report. The new permit will apply to the “23 existing development and production platforms as well as to any new exploratory drilling operations located in and discharging to the specified lease blocks on the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf covered by the permit.”

This revised permit replaces the previous general permit issued on September 22, 2004, and is similar to the permit that was proposed in December 2012. See the Fact Sheet dated December 5, 2012 (pages 18-71) and the Addendum to the Fact Sheet dated December 17, 2013 (pages 1-17).

The disclosure requirement was added in response to recent concerns expressed by environmental groups and others regarding the potential effects of discharges of fluids used for hydraulic fracturing operations offshore. In November, U.S. Representative Lois Capps (D-Calif.) requested the EPA to place a moratorium on offshore fracking activities until “a comprehensive study of their impacts on the marine environment and public health is conducted and considered.”

This post was written by Barclay Nicholson (barclay.nicholson@nortonrosefulbright.com or 713.651.3662) from Norton Rose Fulbright's Energy Practice Group.