Fifty years ago, oil and gas drilling exploration oftentimes included the use of unlined pits which were built to hold produced water, drilling fluids, chlorides, hydrocarbons, and heavy metals. Once the drilling was completed, it was not unusual for the oil company to simply cover up the pit. When a new company leased the land, it might reuse the pit or dig a new one in another location.
Today, oil companies usually discard of their produced water in salt water injection wells which re-inject the water into deep formations below the surface at the drill site. Use of salt water injection wells has led to recent claims that such activities can lead to seismic activities (earthquakes).
Pits, injection wells, as well as leaking pipes, tanks and other infrastructure sometimes lead to claims by landowners that oil and gas operators, often many decades ago, caused their property to become polluted and contaminated with hydrocarbons, produced water and other materials used in the exploration and production of oil and gas. These suits typically name every operator who ever worked at the site as defendants, regardless of when those operations took place.
Over the past few years, several key technical, economic, and energy policy developments have also spurred increased use of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas extraction over a wider diversity of geographic regions and geologic formations. With the expansion of hydraulic fracturing, there have been increasing concerns voiced by the public about potential impacts on drinking water resources, public health, and the environment.
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