Author: Mark Orzechowski, P.G.

UPDATE: Proposed Revisions to the CCR Rules

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The following information is provided as an update to our recent blog on the proposed revisions to the CCR Rules.

EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler signed the Final CCR Rule Phase 1, Part 1 on July 17, 2018.  The rule will become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.  The main points of the rule include:

  1. Addition of risk-based groundwater protection standards (GWPS) based on regional screening levels (RSLs) for cobalt, molybdenum, lead, and lithium – the four Appendix IV constituents that do not have Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs),
  2. Extension of the deadline for the mandatory closure of unlined surface impoundments that exceed GWPS and facilities that do not meet the location restriction for placement above the uppermost aquifer, and
  3. Provision for states with approved CCR permit programs under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act or EPA to use alternative performance standards, including: (1) suspending groundwater monitoring requirements if there is no potential for migration of hazardous constituents to the uppermost aquifer, and (2) issue technical certifications.

For those interested in exploring this topic further:

A prepublication copy of the rule is available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/07/30/2018-16262/hazardous-and-solid-waste-management-system-disposal-of-coal-combustion-residuals-from-electric

CEC’s previous blog, Proposed Revisions to the CCR Rules: https://blog.cecinc.com/2018/05/18/proposed-revisions-to-the-ccr-rules/

If you have questions regarding U.S. EPA’s proposed changes to the CCR Rules, please contact: Roy Stanley, C.P.G. (rstanley@cecinc.com; 888-598-6808 ext. 3316) in our Columbus office, or Brianne Hastings, P.G. (bhastings@cecinc.com; 800-365-2324 ext. 1117) or Mark Orzechowski, P.G. (morzechowski@cecinc.com, 800-365-2324 ext. 1152) in our Pittsburgh office.

Conclusions of “Duke Paper” Not Supported By Limited Data

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The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) recently published a letter coauthored by Mark Orzechowski, P. G.,  of Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc. and Tarek Saba, Ph. D., of Exponent, Inc.  The letter was written in response to an article published earlier this year by PNAS, entitled Methane Contamination of Drinking Water Accompanying Gas-Well Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing, written by Osborn et al.  The article is typically referred to as the “Duke Paper” by many in the natural gas industry.  Based on the results of 68 water-well samples, Osborn et al. concluded that there was evidence of increased concentrations of thermogenic methane in water wells near active gas extraction areas compared with water wells outside active gas extraction areas.  The Osborn study also concluded that the thermogenic methane in the water wells was consistent with Marcellus Shale gas.

The response letter by Mr. Orzechowski and Dr. Saba indicates that the data set presented in the study was too limited to support the conclusions provided by the authors.  In addition, Mr. Orzechowski and Dr. Saba provide evidence that natural gas from the much shallower Lock Haven Formation is the more likely source of methane in the water wells sampled in the study (many of those water wells are completed in the Lock Haven Formation).  The studies behind the “Duke Paper” also failed to analyze for carbon and hydrogen isotopes in the methane and ethane, which would be required to determine if the methane was related to the Marcellus gas extraction operations.  The response letter concluded the limited data presented in the “Duke Paper” do not support the presence of gas from the Marcellus Formation in private water wells in the vicinity of gas extraction operations.  Click here to see the response letter.

If you have questions on the conclusions reached by Mr. Orzechowski and Dr. Saba, please contact Mark Orzechowski, P.G., (morzechowski@cecinc.com) at 800-365-2324.