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PR BROWNER STOPS DISCHARGE OF OIL AND GAS WELL POLLUTANTS

Release Date: 11/5/96
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PR BROWNER STOPS DISCHARGE OF OIL AND GAS WELL POLLUTANTS

FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 5, l996

BROWNER STOPS DISCHARGE OF BILLIONS OF POUNDS OF OIL AND GAS WELL POLLUTANTS INTO GULF OF MEXICO, ALASKA COASTAL WATERWAYS

EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner increased protection to public health and

the coastal waters along the Gulf of Mexico and Cook Inlet, Alaska, by requiring

coastal oil and gas production facilities to stop pollutant discharges into the Gulf

of Mexico and reduce such discharges into Cook Inlet, eliminating nearly two billion

pounds of contaminants that annually reach these waters.

Browner said, "This action will fully protect the sensitive environment of these coastal waters and reduce Americans' exposure to cancer-causing pollutants in our oceans and beaches."

Under a final Clean Water Act rule, Browner set limits for pollutants discharged into coastal waters from oil and gas production facilities along the Gulf of Mexico and Cook Inlet, Alaska, the last two remaining U. S. coastal areas receiving such discharges. These limitations are expected to reduce current discharges of toxic pollutants, including arsenic, cadmium and lead, by more than two hundred thousand pounds per year; conventional pollutants, such as oil, grease and solids, by approximately 2.8 million pounds per year; and non-conventional pollutants, such as chlorides, ammonia, and aluminum, by approximately 1.5 billion pounds per year. The major waste streams being limited are produced water, drilling fluids and drill cuttings. EPA is conducting additional studies on discharges from Cook Inlet before any additional action is considered.

Coastal waters, often containing wetlands and more complex ecosystems, are highly sensitive to pollutant discharges compared to open offshore areas. Many of the discharged pollutants are toxic to aquatic life as well as humans or are known to cause cancer. Many of these pollutants are persistent in the environment and accumulate in sediments and aquatic organisms. EPA is committed to protecting human health. Specifically, in Cook Inlet, EPA will conduct bioaccumulation studies on fish tissues and clams, to determine impacts on people living in this area, especially those who depend on substance fishing, such as the native tribes.

At the same time under the rule, Browner incorporated into federal law stateissued zero-discharge standards already in place for such facilities along the California, Florida and Alabama coasts and along the North Slope of Alaska.

EPA estimates that total annual costs of the final rule are $16.2 million. State and federal permitting authorities will work with individual facilities to establish schedules for compliance, studies and interim controls. The "Final Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Coastal Subcategory of the Oil and Gas Extraction Point Source Category" was signed Oct. 31 and will be published in the Federal Register within the next few weeks. At that time, it also will be available on EPA's Internet web-site through the use of the Agency's listing of Federal Register notices at http://www.epa.gov/EPA-WATER. For technical questions, non-reporters can call Charles E. White in EPA's Office of Water at 202-260-5411.





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