Last November, I drove through an early-season snow squall in the Nebraska Panhandle on my way to the offices of the Nebraska Oil and Gas Commission, housed in an old J.C. Penney store on the main street of the railway town of Sidney.
My task was to act as an observer on a peer review of Nebraska’s Underground Injection Control Class II program, which, among other things, oversees the wells used to inject the wastewater that’s generated along with oil and gas production.
Wastewater injection wells have drawn headlines in recent years. If not properly sealed, they can contaminate local groundwater supplies. And in some states — though not Nebraska — poorly planned injections can cause seismic events. So making sure these wells are properly managed is crucial to protecting nearby communities.
These peer reviews, sponsored by the Ground Water Protection Council, bring together oil and gas regulators who are expert in this topic from around the country, as well as observers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to take a close look at states’ programs and make suggestions for improving the rules and procedures related to underground injection in order to prevent pollution.