Friday, June 7, 2024

Better Path Coalition: DEP Removes Co-Product Category From Conventional Oil & Gas Waste Reporting Database; Well Owners Continue To Fail To Report How They Dispose Of Their Waste

On June 7, the
Better Path Coalition reported the Department of Environmental Protection has removed the co-product category from its waste disposal reporting database for conventional oil and gas well owners, according to documents the Coalition received in response to a Right-To-Know request.

The co-product category was questioned by the Coalition because DEP has not approved any request from conventional oil and gas well owners to use the industry's wastewater under the co-product provisions of the Residual Waste Regulations.

Disposing of wastewater from conventional oil and gas wells by using it as a dust suppressant or for deicing is illegal because the industry has failed to meet the requirements of the Residual Waste Regulations.

The Coalition believed the category in DEP's database gave "legitimacy to drillers who were spreading the waste on unpaved roads in parts of the state."

“We are glad that the Department of Environmental Production heard our concerns about compromising the state’s oil and gas waste reporting system with a made-up product type,” said Karen Feridun, Co-founder of the Better Path Coalition, who has been researching and writing about the Coproduct loophole on behalf of the Coalition since 2021. 

“Although our main concern was with the decision to enable drillers who were trying to work around the moratorium, we were also very bothered by the fact that the state’s environmental regulators were willing to corrupt their own database. The product type was misapplied by several conventional and a few unconventional drillers,” said Feridun.

Since a moratorium on road dumping of conventional oil and gas was declared in 2018 as a result of the settlement of a citizen appeal of DEP’s program for approving of road dumping to the Environmental Hearing Board [Read more here], conventional well owners have reported spreading more than 3 million gallons of waste on roads. 

The number of drillers who have reported road spreading since 2018 is a fraction of the number who reported using the disposal method prior to the moratorium.

The sharp drop in the number of drillers reporting road spreading after the moratorium raises another concern about drillers’ use of the co-product loophole. 

Among the documents Feridun received in response to a 2022 Right-to-Know request was a 2019 letter Pennfield Energy sent to townships that were prospective clients for road dumping their wastewater. 

The Pennfield Energy letter promoted road dumping their waste with the townships, saying “Pennfield has been offering to townships free brine in efforts to reduce our expense of taking it to a waste treatment facility.  The only charge to townships is trucking which is $75.00 per hour.

“This has been a substantial savings for townships therefore a win, win for both of us.  In addition to this mutual benefit, reporting regs with D.E.P. have gotten easier.

“Pennfield has obtained a Co-Product status instead of Waste with our brine. What this means is you don’t have to report spreading and it can be spread all year round. 

“I know this is hard to believe because D.E.P. doesn’t make anything easy, but it’s true, you do need our brine analysis on hand and a copy of the D.E.P. regulation with Co-product determination.  We will provide this to you once we you (sic) have completed and returned the enclosed agreement.” (emphasis added)

Click Here for a copy of the Pennfield Energy letter.

[DEP sent letters to 18 municipalities in May 2022 advising them that road dumping conventional oil and gas wastewater was illegal, “unlawful conduct” under the state Solid Waste Management Act and considered waste disposal.  Read more here.

[DEP, in fact, designated 84 municipalities as “waste facilities” because they were sites where conventional oil and gas well owners reported road dumping their wastewater.  Read more here.

[DEP outlawed road dumping wastewater from shale gas drilling operations in 2016 regulations, but not from conventional oil and gas wells even though the wastewaters have few differences, according to Penn State research. Read more here.]

Before DEP's Bureau of Waste Management requested Pennfield’s co-product determination report in 2021, the Coalition said the company had not reported any form of waste disposal from 2018 through 2020, even though the DEP’s Oil & Gas Well Production reports from the same three years show that the company produced 10,165.66 barrels of oil.

[DEP reported in March of this year that 86% of conventional oil and gas well owners fail to comply with waste reporting requirements for 33,505 wells in 2023.  Read more here.]

“How many companies continued to spread their waste on roads but just stopped reporting it because they believed their waste was no longer a waste but a co-product? Nobody can answer that question and that’s a big problem,” said Feridun. “And it’s just one of many big problems with how dangerous drilling waste is managed in Pennsylvania. It’s past time for an outright ban on all road spreading in Pennsylvania.”

The Better Path Coalition thanks Tim Fitchett of Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services for his assistance in negotiations during the Right-To-Know appeal process.

Related Articles This Week:

-- House Environmental Committee Hearing On Road Dumping Oil & Gas Wastewater Set For June 10; A Voting Meeting On Bill To Ban Road Dumping June 11  [PaEN]  

-- Independent Fiscal Office Reports Drop In PA Shale Gas Production From 4th Quarter  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Citizens Advisory Council Meets June 11 To Hear About Mid-Atlantic Hydrogen Hub, Ag-Grid Energy, More On Electronics Waste Recycling  [PaEN] 


-- The Energy Age Blog: 3 New EQT Shale Gas Well Pads Ready For Drilling In Union Twp., Washington County

-- Pittsburgh Business Times: Natural Gas Drilling Drops In First Quarter In Pennsylvania

-- Marcellus Drilling News: Martins Ferry WV Council Pressure Ohio Agency To Clean Up PA-Owned Oil & Gas Wastewater Treatment Plant NOW

-- Times Leader: Report: As Fracking Increases, So Do Oil & Gas Industry Inefficiencies

-- Post-Gazette Editorial: Fracking Produces A Resource [Lithium] Needed To Wean Us Off Fossil Fuels - Pennsylvania Should Embrace It

-- CNX Resources Gas Company Releases 2023 Corporate Sustainability Report - Radically Transparent, Appalachia First Initiatives

-- Pittsburgh Business Times: EQT, Equitrans Gas Set July 18 Date For Shareholder Vote On Acquisition

-- Delaware Valley Journal Guest Essay: PA Leaders - LNG Gas Expansion isn’t Partisan, It’s Smart - By Taylor Millard

-- Marcellus Drilling News/ US LNG Gas Exports Are Climbing As The Impact From Spring Maintenance Work Eases [Note Shipments To China]

-- Bloomberg: Shell CEO Warns Of Risk From Volatile LNG Gas Export Policy In DC Visit

-- Bloomberg: How A Cracked Pipe  Caused Panic In Europe’s Natural Gas Market

-- Bloomberg Guest Essay: LNG Gas Market Is Europe’s New Vulnerability

-- Bloomberg: European Natural Gas Jumps 13% As Unplanned Norwegian Outages Cut Supply

-- Reuters: Freeport LNG Gas Export Facility Sues 3 Contractors Over Defects At Texas Plant  

-- Reuters: Golden Pass LNG Gas Export Facility Construction Turmoil To Delay Texas Plant’s Startup, Analysts Say 

-- Reuters: China’s CNOOC Reports Major Natural Gas Production Breakthrough In 1  Trillion Cubic Meter Gas Region In South China Sea

-- KDKA: Residents And Research Say Shell Petrochemical Plant A Bust, Fell Short Of Economic Promises

-- Beaver County Times: Watchdogs To Monitor Air Pollution From Shell Petrochemical Plant With Penalty Funds

-- TribLive/AP: OPEC, Led By Saudies, Extend Supply Cuts Amid Slack Prices

[Posted: June 7, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

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