Thursday, February 20, 2020

GAO releases report calling EPA data on class II programs inadequate to measure effectiveness

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report detailing its findings that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) data collection practices surrounding inspections and enforcement action for underground drinking water sources are inadequate.

The study specifically focused on whether or not the EPA is collecting enough information on inspections and enforcement actions and conducted consistent oversight to make its UIC class II well programs, as well as associated state class II programs, effective. The oil and gas production industry uses class II wells to store the wastewater generated by their production activities, and the wells must be properly managed to ensure that they do not contaminate drinking water sources.

The GAO report stated the data collected annually by the EPA on these programs and their inspection activities is not detailed enough to determine if the inspections are meeting the annual goals of both the EPA and states. Additionally, the GAO determined that the EPA did not adequately clarify its guidance to states on reporting violations.

Going forward the GAO recommends that the EPA expand the inspection data it requires from class II programs to include well-specific information. The GAO also recommends that the agency better delineate the reporting requirements for enforcement data. The GAO suggested that the EPA undertake strategic human capital analysis to determine what resources it needs to better monitor these programs.

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U.S. Government Accountability Office

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