The expense of disposing of so much hazardous waste would slow U. For the industry, and for people who live and work near commercial waste facilities, the distinction between hazardous and non-hazardous waste is critical when it comes to air quality.
Pits at hazardous waste sites must be covered—open-air pits are not allowed.
A recent EPA review of oil and gas waste regulations in 27 states, including Texas, Pennsylvania and Colorado, found that none had rules requiring regular air monitoring at commercial solid waste facilities.
Nathan Richardson, an assistant professor of environmental law at the University of South Carolina who studies waste rules, said most states, including Texas, focus on safeguarding ground and surface water, protecting wildlife, keeping out trespassers and restoring land after pits are closed.
The EPA estimated that without the exemption, 10 to 70 percent of oil and gas waste could be considered hazardous.
Travis County Assistant District Attorney Patricia Robertson, the environmental crimes prosecutor for the Texas Environmental Enforcement Task Force, has been frustrated for years because the federal exemption makes it almost impossible to prosecute waste facilities for anything more serious than dust or foul odors, which are considered nuisances under Texas law.Credit: Credit: Eleanor Bell/Center for Public Integrity NORDHEIM, Texas – School Superintendent Kevin Wilson tugged at his oversized belt buckle and gestured toward a field less than a mile from Nordheim School, where 180 children attend kindergarten through 12th grade.A commercial waste facility that will receive millions of barrels of toxic sludge from oil and gas production for disposal in enormous open-air pits is taking shape there, and Wilson worries that the ever-present Texas wind will carry traces of dangerous chemicals, including benzene, to the school.“Many of these students live outside of where they could be exposed,” said Wilson, a contemplative man with a soft Texas accent.“But we are busing them to the school, putting them in the direct path of something that could be harmful to them.