Tell the EPA: Don’t let carbon waste injection poison our future

Dr. Earthea Nance, Region 6 EPA

Efforts to expand carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects are underway in Texas.

This new CCS infrastructure buildout presents a threat to communities' drinking water. CCS involves injecting highly pressurized carbon dioxide waste deep into the earth below our communities into storage wells and aquifers – and if proper oversight is not conducted, underground sources of drinking water (USDWs) can be permanently contaminated with strong acids and harmful chemicals such as lead, arsenic, and more.  

The Railroad Commission of Texas, the state's oil and gas regulator, is working to gain primary oversight authority (Primacy) over carbon storage projects – an agency which has demonstrated a consistently poor record of environmental oversight.

We urge you to sign the petition to the EPA voicing your concern over their proposal to rapidly build out carbon capture and storage projects in Texas without rigorous oversight or proper community engagement.

To: Dr. Earthea Nance, Region 6 EPA
From: [Your Name]

As concerned Texans, we urge that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reject the Railroad Commission of Texas’ (RRC) application for Primary Enforcement Authority (“Primacy”) over Class VI carbon dioxide injection wells. Carbon dioxide injection wells pose serious safety risks to people, and groundwater, especially under the oversight of the RRC, which has a long history of mismanaging injection wells.

If Primacy is granted to RRC, current and future underground sources of drinking water will be in danger of contamination beyond human use. Without proper carbon injection and storage oversight, water acidification can occur, contaminating underground sources of drinking water with harmful chemicals such as lead, arsenic, and more.

The RRC has proven to be an ineffective oversight and enforcement agency. Modern and legacy unplugged oil and gas wells are currently contaminating land, air, and water all across Texas, likely due to influence from Class II injection wells. Several other institutional problems raise serious concern for RRC Primacy:

1. Outdated Plugging Rules: RRC’s outdated rules have resulted in hundreds of thousands of unplugged wells in Texas with active operators, and an ever-growing list of orphaned wells. Landowners and local jurisdictions across the state are finding many unplugged wells to be leaking and threatening groundwater supplies, and the RRC is not acting fast enough to ensure wells are properly plugged. Underground injection wells in Texas are connecting with these unplugged wells, causing leaks and blowouts at the surface and threatening groundwater and soil quality.

2. Dangerously Flawed Datasets: RRC has poorly managed the data critical to informing the protection of groundwater. This includes data used to define underground sources of drinking water; and for locating unplugged wells and identifying their owners. Inaccurate or missing information could result in groundwater acidification, heavy metal contamination, or well blowouts.

3. Insufficient Response: RRC has shown poor remediation timelines with their current liabilities; has effectively failed at implementation of current monitoring and enforcement programs; and lacks the agency capacity or resources to manage these larger, more consequential underground injection control and groundwater protection programs.

4. Minimal Access & Equity Considerations: RRC has long minimized community engagement opportunities, including language access, and consideration for cumulative environmental and health impacts for low-income communities and communities of color. Some communities have reported spending six figures to protest permit applications before the RRC because the commission has allowed unlimited application modifications.

5. Biased Decision-makers: RRC cannot be trusted to make sound decisions that promote the public good based on the agency’s flawed accountability structure. RRC commissioners have personal financial interests in the same companies they oversee, and have not recused themselves from decisions about these companies. We cannot afford to trust our current and future drinking water security to this captive agency.

We urge the EPA to keep Texas groundwater safe and deny the Railroad Commission of Texas’s requests for any additional enforcement authority until they can prove they can reliably exercise the enforcement responsibility they already have.