Petroleum industry generates substantial amounts of wastes that is related to exploration, drilling, production, and development activities. Management of these wastes is essential to ensure protection of human health and the environment and also to comply with the regulations that govern them. These regulation were based mainly upon a study done by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the impact of these wastes on environment while considering the economic impact of subjecting these wastes to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Subtitle C regulations.

Based on this study, exemption is granted to petroleum wastes that results from exploration, drilling, production, and development activities. Under this exemption petroleum wastes are not considered hazardous wastes. To address the diverse environmental and programmatic issues posed by these petroleum wastes, EPA has taken a three-pronged approach: (1) Improving Federal programs under authorities in Subtitle D of RCRA, the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA); (2) Working with States to encourage changes in their regulations and enforcement to improve some programs; and (3) Working with congress to develop any additional statutory authorities that may be required. Confusion about the exempt and non-exempt status of wastes from the exploration and production (E & P) activities in the petroleum industry seem to be quite prevalent, especially in light of the State and local requirements being different in many cases. This paper is an attempt to clarify the exempt and non-exempt status of wastes and to provide a clear understanding of the regulations that the industry must abide by in order to comply with both State and Federal requirements. Acceptable methods of waste handling and management are also discussed in this paper which should help the industry in pollution prevention and resource conservation aspect of waste management.

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