The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has changed its mind on giving the green light to a 7,300-foot-deep injection well in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, which was supposed to permanently hold drilling wastewater from shale gas operations. The permit it had already granted stated that the well could take up to 1,000 barrels of drilling wastewater daily or 30,000 barrels a month.

After taking into consideration the extensive public comments it gathered on the matter, the EPA acknowledged that the well might cause earthquakes and groundwater contamination, so it asked its Environmental Appeal Board for a "voluntary remand" of the permit granted in February, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Quoting a statement released by EPA spokesman David Sternberg, the newspaper said the remand would give the federal agency more time to evaluate the potential impact of the injection well and make sure that the "substantive and procedural requirements" of the regulator have been complied with. After reconsidering, the EPA could reissue the permit with the same or similar conditions or might deny the permit altogether. It is also possible that a new draft permit could be issued, with the respective public comment period, Sternberg added.

The permit was issued to Windfall Oil & Gas Inc., whose president Michael Hoover declined to comment on the matter. Hoover told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he had not had the chance to speak with the EPA regarding the permit remand or about the alternative options that Windfall had.