United States
              Environmental Protection
   Office of Water
EPA 821-F-15-002
                  March 2015
Proposed Effluent Limitations
Guidelines and Standards for Oil  and
Gas Extraction
EPA proposes technology-based pretreatment
standards under the Clean Water Act for discharges
of pollutants into publicly owned treatment works
(POTWs) from existing and new unconventional oil
and natural gas (UOG) extraction facilities. The
proposed rule would better protect public health, the
environment, and the operational integrity of POTWs
by establishing pretreatment standards that would
prevent the discharge of pollutants in wastewater
from onshore UOG extraction facilities to POTWs.
This proposed rule would fill a gap in existing federal
wastewater regulations to ensure that the current
practice of not sending wastewater discharges from
this sector to POTWs continues into the future.
Responsible development of America's oil and gas
resources offers important economic, energy
security, and environmental benefits. EPA is working
with states and other stakeholders to understand and
address potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing, an
important process involved in producing UOG, so the
public has confidence that oil and natural gas
production will proceed in a safe and responsible
manner. EPA is moving forward with several
                         initiatives to provide regulatory clarity with respect to
                         existing laws and using existing authorities, where
                         appropriate, to enhance public health and
                         environmental safeguards.

                         UOG extraction wastewater can be generated in large
                         quantities and contain constituents that are
                         potentially harmful to human health and the
                         environment. Wastewater from UOG wells often
                         contains high concentrations of salt content, also
                         called total dissolved solids or TDS. The wastewater
                         can also contain various organic chemicals, inorganic
                         chemicals, metals, and naturally-occurring
                         radioactive materials (also referred to as
                         technologically enhanced naturally occurring
                         radioactive material or TENORM). This potentially
                         harmful wastewater creates a need for appropriate
                         wastewater management infrastructure and

                         Historically, operators primarily managed their
                         wastewater via underground injection in disposal
                         wells (where available). Where UOG wells were
                         drilled  in areas with limited underground injection
                         wells, and/or there was a lack of wastewater
                         management alternatives, it became more common

for operators to look to public and private
wastewater treatment facilities to manage their
wastewater. Because they are not typical of POTW
influent wastewater, some UOG extraction
wastewater constituents:
  can be discharged, untreated, from the POTW to
   the receiving stream
  can disrupt the operation of the POTW (for
   example, by inhibiting  biological treatment)
  can accumulate in biosolids (also called  sewage
   sludge), limiting their use, and
  can facilitate the formation of harmful
   disinfection by-products.

Based on the information reviewed as part of this
proposed rulemaking, this proposed  prohibition of
discharges to POTWs reflects current industry
practice.  EPA has not identified any existing onshore
UOG extraction facilities that currently discharge
wastewater to POTWs. However, because onshore
unconventional oil and gas extraction facilities have
discharged to POTWs in the past, and because the
potential remains that some facilities can consider
discharging to POTWs in the future, EPA proposes
this rule.
For More Information
You can view the Federal Register Notice on EPA's
website for Unconventional Extraction in the Oil and
Gas Industry at
gas/unconv.cfm. In addition, the proposed rule will
be available at http://www.regulations.gov under
Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OW-2014-0598. The public
comment period for this proposed rule is 60 days.
You may also contact Lisa Biddle at
The data reviewed by EPA show that the UOG
extraction industry is not currently managing
wastewaters by sending them to POTWs. Therefore,
the proposed rule causes no incremental change to
current industry practice that EPA measured as
compliance costs or monetized benefits.
Still, EPA has considered that while states, localities,
and POTWs are not currently approving these
wastewaters for acceptance at POTWs, some POTWs
continue to receive requests to accept UOG
extraction wastewater. This proposed rule would
provide regulatory certainty and would eliminate the
burden on POTWs to analyze such requests.