Current UMD documentation of oil & gas violations in Tennessee:
New Legislation Means Unregulated Fracking in TennesseeUMD, in the course of documenting gas and oil violations in Tennessee, has been harassed and threatened by gas company representatives.
On September 28, 2012, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and
the Tennessee Board of Water Quality, Oil and Gas passed new regulations to govern the oil and gas
industry, and in particular the practice of fracking. Although UMD, numerous citizen organizations
and the public submitted guidance, comments, and evidence of environmental degradation, these
concerns were set aside as authorities enacted substantially weak regulation into law. A key
provision of this new legislation was the bypassing of public participation and permitting procedures
concerning fracking activities: Disclosure and notification requirements are triggered only when
200,000 or more gallons of water-based fracking fluids are used to frack a well. With the new rules,
the public is not notified or provided the chance to provide comments, drilling companies do not
have to provide notice to property owners located within a half-mile of wellheads or residences with
drinking water wells within a half-mile of wellheads, property owners cannot request that their
wells be tested before drilling takes place, and well operators do not have to disclose the amount of
fluid and what type of chemicals are used in the fracking process. The lack of disclosure and
notification in Tennessee is exacerbated by the exemption of fracking and associated activities from
the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), which specifically exclude regulation of the
underground injection of fluids or propping agents associated with hydraulic fracturing operations.
Fracking introduces the potential for catastrophic and irreversible damage from earthquakes
induced by fault lubrication, contamination of surface and ground water, uncontrolled venting of
VOCs and methane into the atmosphere, leakage of contaminated drilling waste fluid from storage
ponds, soil contamination from BTEX, PAH, VOC, fire/explosion hazards, and a litany of other issues.
Fracking has been embraced on a widespread basis in spite the limited understanding of rock
fracture patterns, fracture processes, the permeability of fracture networks, and the behavior of
fracking fluids and groundwater in the complex, highly variable geologic structures found
throughout East Tennessee.
Environmental and safety issues have occurred at oil and gas sites in Tennessee, including fires and
significant oil spills, but TDEC maintains that no impacts have been documented from fracking
activities and that activities associated with fracking pose no risk to the environment or public
health. However, recent documentation from regulators in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and
Texas indicates that well-water contamination and other pollution caused by oil, gas and fracking
activities is widespread. Due to chronic underfunding and understaffing and the sheer number
and spatial distribution of oil and gas sites, TDEC is unable to regulate the gas industry in Tennessee
by effectively identifying, reporting and prosecuting violations.