Wednesday, May 27, 2020

House Republicans Pass Bill Rolling Back Environmental Protection Requirements For Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling

On May 27, House Republicans passed Senate Bill 790 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson) that would significantly reduce requirements for protecting the environment from conventional oil and gas drilling.
The vote was 109 to 93, Republicans supporting-- 15 Republicans voted no and 16 Democrats voted yes.  The bill now returns to the Senate for a concurrence vote.
Over 195 statewide and local environmental groups and over 1,655 citizens have made it clear to legislators they oppose this legislation and legalizing road dumping. Click Here for more.
Gov. Wolf has said he will veto the bill because it still contains significant flaws.
Action on Senate Bill 790 now without the language legalizing road dumping of drilling wastewater does not preclude steps being taken in the future to slip the legalization language in other legislation-- say in the budget-related bills that must pass in June.
The PA Environmental Council and the Environmental Defense Fund outlined their opposition to key provisions in the bill in a May 27 letter to all House members
The concerns included--
-- Water Supplies: Removes requirement drillers must replace water supplies damaged by drilling with one that meets Safe Drinking Water Act standards;
-- Inadequate Bonding: The bill arbitrarily limits bonding and other financial assurance measures increasing the risk of another generation of remediation costs that must be borne by taxpayers;
-- Spill Not Reporting: The bill would not require any reporting of brine spills of any volumen provided they are below 10,000 mg/kg total dissolved solids which can be damaging to land and water resources; and
-- Well Integrity & Plugging: The bill relaxes well integrity, groundwater protection and plugging and remediation standards that run counter to common industry practices already employed in Pennsylvania today.
Senate Bill 790 was introduced as a follow up to action by the General Assembly to kill DEP’s final updated conventional drilling regulations in 2016 because the industry thought they were too strict.
The law then created the PA Grade Crude Development Advisory Council, made up of all industry-related individuals, that was supposed to “advise” DEP on development a new update to the conventional drilling regulations, but so far no draft regulations have been discussed by the Council since it was created in 2016.
The bill is a companion to House Bill 1635 (Causer-R-Cameron) also introduced in June.  The language in House Bill 1635 passed the House last session as House Bill 2154, moved to the Senate and reported out of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and was awaiting action on the Senate Calendar when the session ended.
Senate Bill 790 has different provisions than House Bill 1635 which turns back the clock of environmental regulation of conventional wells all the way back to 1984.  Click Here for more background.
(Photo: Conventional oil well leak.)
Related Articles:
Related Articles - Other Republican Votes This Week:
[Posted: May 27, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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