While the 2005 Energy Act exempts natural gas drillers, unfortunately, from many aspects of federal oversight, gas drilling wastewater that they route to sewage treatment plants (or send to surface waters) is in fact subject to federal control.
That’s because individual state’s wastewater treatment discharge programs operate under federal oversight as required by the Clean Water Act.
So, Pennsylvania is getting some things under control:
…The state is asking drilling companies to stop sending the waste to a group of treatment plants that are not equipped to remove certain contaminants before discharging it into rivers. …
“Not equipped” is an understatement. Wastewater treatment plants are designed to handle human wastewater, not fracking blowback.
Anyway, this pressure from the Pennsylvania regulators would likely not be happening without the federal “bear in the closet.” Pennsylvania regulators have to do what’s necessary to protect their treatment plants (and surface waters), and in fact EPA could take over Pennsylvania’s wastewater discharge program if they do not.