Tuesday, February 2, 2016

GOP Chair Of House Environmental Committee To Offer Amendments To Chapter 78 Drilling Regs Feb. 3

On Tuesday afternoon, Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny), Majority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, notified members of the Environmental Quality Board he intends to offer a series of 9 amendments to DEP’s Chapter 78 (conventional) and 78A (unconventional) drilling regulations at the Environmental Quality Board meeting February 3.
“While I do have serious, overarching concerns about the process and substance of the pending regulations, I have resisted the urge to present related amendments,” said Rep. Maher.  “Instead, the wordsmithing suggested is generally for clarity and consistency.”
Rep. Maher is not alone.  Late Monday, the Republican and Democratic Chairs of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee said they would also be offering amendments.
Rep. Maher provided this summary of his amendments--
-- Centralized Impoundment definition. Current draft definition is only by reference to a DEP form.  This technical amendment allows readers to understand that such impoundments apply to waste using terms from the referenced DEP form.  
-- Mine Influenced Water definition. The regs quite correctly apply special conditions to the use and disposition of mine influenced water.  This technical amendment provides that the surface waters that the Department has determined to have been "impaired by pollutional mine drainage" are on the EPA 303(D) List Five.  Secondly, it clarifies that Mine Influenced Water does not include water that has been remediated to NPEDS standards pursuant to a permit issued by DEP.
-- Well Development Pipeline definition. Technical amendment to specific cross reference.
Landowner's consent re restoration.  Sections 78.65 and 78a.65 clearly provides for landowner consent to prevail in restoration so long as such consent would not impair environmental considerations.  These technical amendments reiterates the landowners option for consistency on this point.
-- Restoration to known conditions. Tens of thousands of conventional wells were constructed before the advent of record keeping about prior conditions.  These amendments add "if known" to prior condition/contours standard so as to not create an unsolvable impediment to restoration.
-- Area of Review Best Efforts requirements.  These amendments provide that operators must use best efforts to identify surface and bottom holes using all sources of information known to the Department of the operator.
-- Pollution Prevention Contingency Plans. In the Notice of Final Rulemaking presented to EQB, the Department states that this subsection is not intended to establish any new requirements (and therefore attributes no cost to these provisions).  The Department states that these provisions, "simply reiterate the requirements already existing" in PA Code sections 91.34 and 102.5.  This technical amendment makes the intended reiteration unambiguous and clarifies that such plans must be in place prior to commencing operations.
-- Stormwater Management Manuals. It is quite helpful for the Department to have manuals on a wide array of subjects.  Manuals are not regulations, however, and this technical amendment simply deletes the references to these particular manuals.  I suspect DEP has manuals on many of the subjects of these regulations and, quite appropriately, did not retain references to any of the others in this draft.  This certainly does not impair DEP's ability to employ these or other manuals as they already do.
-- Road Brine. This amendment simply clarifies that brine that meets road treatment standards is not considered a regulated substance.  Otherwise, it could not be spread on the roads at all!
A copy of the amendments are available online.
The EQB meeting will be held on February 3 in Room 105 of the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg starting at 9:00 a.m.  Click Here to watch the meeting online.
Copies of the regulation changes and other related documents are available at the Environmental Quality Board meeting webpage.

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