"Drilling and Water Interests Clash on Disposal Wells"

"In the heart of Texas' mineral-rich Eagle Ford Shale, freshwater isn't the only precious resource for both oil companies and local communities. Brackish groundwater aquifers are also becoming increasingly valuable — as potential drinking water supplies, and also as locations for disposing wastewater from drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

The tug-of-war between the two interests could come to a head Thursday. That’s when Marathon Oil Company — backed by its industry peers — will argue in front of the Railroad Commission of Texas that groundwater conservation districts should not be allowed to challenge disposal well permits.

Marathon says that the districts have no such authority under Texas law and are creating regulatory uncertainty. Districts say they fear that losing their ability to protest would mean less scrutiny for wastewater wells that could contaminate future drinking water supplies. Thousands of such disposal wells exist in Texas today, and they are proliferating; in 2013, the Railroad Commission approved 668 permits for disposal wells, doubling the number of approvals in 2009. Groundwater district managers have long worried about the potential impact of those wells on both brackish and freshwater aquifers. "

Neena Satija and Jim Malewitz report for the Texas Tribune May 21, 2014.

Thursday, May 22, 2014