On April 22, conventional drilling industry representatives on the PA Grade Crude (Oil) Development Advisory Council said their number one priority was finding ways of disposing of drilling wastewater, including allowing road dumping.
Over 195 statewide and local environmental groups and over 1,655 citizens have made it clear to legislators they oppose this legislation when it was introduced last session. Read more here.
Gov. Wolf vetoed similar legislation in November [Read more here].
This bill and its Senate companion-- Senate Bill 534 (Hutchinson-R-Venango)-- were 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.
DEP said in September it plans to move ahead with developing updated regulations covering conventional drilling since “legislative discussions have not resulted in a viable product….” Read more here.
DEP has been reviewing draft conventional drilling regulations with the Council and other groups for the last several months.
Road Dumping Of Drilling Wastewater
Of particular concern are provisions related to legalizing the road dumping of drilling wastewater from conventional operations.
The House removed those provisions before sending the bill to the Governor last year, but they are back again in the new bills.
As a result of a 2017 appeal to the Environmental Hearing Board, DEP’s Oil and Gas Program imposed a moratorium on all road dumping of wastewater from wells in the state in 2018.
However, the dumping of wastewater from oil and gas wells on roads is still authorized under the DEP Waste Management Program under a co-product determination which allows the use of waste that has similar properties to commercial products as if it was that product.
While DEP told the Citizens Advisory Council in January they have no plans to develop a regulation or permit to authorize the road spreading of wastewater from wells, DEP and the Pennsylvania Grade Crude (Oil) Development Advisory Council have been in discussions on the issue most of last year and this year.
Recent research by Penn State and others has shown the road spreading of wastewater from wells as a dust suppressant is not only not effective, but contaminates the roads and wash sediment and pollutants into nearby streams.
There has also been other research pointing to not only environmental but also health impacts from using oil and gas well wastewater for dust control. Click Here for a summary.
Another recent study found that between 1991 and 2017, 240.4 million gallons of wastewater from conventional oil and gas wells were applied to roads, according to DEP records.
A report released by Earthworks in September documented how 380 million barrels of Pennsylvania oil and gas drilling wastewater (conventional and unconventional) was disposed of, including by road dumping.
The annual report of the Crude (Oil) Development Advisory Council contains a special section devoted to the issue of oil and gas production water issues, including the goal of reinstating the road spreading program, leaving no doubt about their political intentions.
Road Dumping Anywhere
The Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment last year released a map showing unpaved roads in Pennsylvania, each of which could become new dumpsites, if the General Assembly passes these legalizing the road dumping of conventional oil and gas drilling wastewater.
The primary areas to be affected would be unpaved dirt and gravel roads anywhere there is conventional oil and gas drilling in the state.
Click Here to zoom in on the Penn State map to find your house.
On November 12, Berks Gas Truth reported 132 organizations and 1,130 citizens have signed on to a letter to Senate and House lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf objecting to the bills last session legalizing the road dumping of drilling wastewater and providing other benefits to conventional drillers, including a loosening of the requirements for reporting spills.
The letter says in part, “We, the undersigned, are writing to protest your refusal to follow the established process in a rush to get a win for the industry you have come to believe you represent.”
“Pennsylvanians are getting tired of the industry’s every wish being our government’s command. For months, we have been calling for an investigation into the alarming number of diagnoses of rare cancers in children in the shale fields.
“Instead, our elected officials have pushed several bills, Senate Bill 790 being just one, that would roll back environmental protections and provide the natural gas and petrochemical industries with subsidies and incentives.
“It’s a sad day when a public health crisis that has already killed thirteen young people takes a back seat to reinstating the very kind of toxic practices that may be linked to their deaths.” said Karen Feridun, Founder of Berks Gas Truth.
The letter closes, “Doing the bidding of the natural gas industry is not your job. You are in Harrisburg to represent the best interests of Pennsylvanians. You are failing us, regularly and miserably. We call on the House to stop both Senate Bill 790 and House Bill 1635 (a similar measure introduced this year). Should they fail to represent our best interests, we call on Governor Wolf to commit to vetoing whichever bill reaches his desk.”
The May 4 Committee meeting will be held in Room G-50 of the Irvis Building at the “Call of the Chair,” which means there is no set time for the meeting; it could be held at any point after the House convenes session on Tuesday. Click Here to watch live.
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-783-1707 or sending email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-7647 or sending email to: email@example.com.
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House Republican 2021 Environmental & Energy Agenda:[Posted: April 28, 2021] PA Environment Digest