Court Strikes Rule Exempting Oil and Gas Projects

A federal court struck down a rule exempting oil and gas development projects from pollution-prevention requirements of the Clean Water Act. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a case brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The decision will protect thousands of streams throughout the West from sediment contamination caused by energy exploration and development, according to a May 23 press release from NRDC.

"It is well known that sediment pollution from oil and gas development can impair water quality and destroy aquatic habitat. Yet under the guise of enforcing the 2005 Energy Act, EPA exempted projects from the requirements of the Clean Water Act," said Aaron Colangelo, senior attorney at NRDC. "Today, the court rightly decided that the EPA rule was arbitrary and capricious. The law clearly requires oil and gas projects to apply for permits and install pollution controls to protect water quality.

"The explosion of oil and gas exploration and production poses a serious threat to water quality throughout the West. Sediment from projects runs off into streams and rivers; harming aquatic life; increasing water treatment costs for towns and cities; decreasing property values; and interfering with recreational activities, such as boating, swimming and fishing."

For more information, see the NRDC report, "Drilling Down: Protecting Western Communities from the Health and Environmental Effects of Oil and Gas Pollution" at

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