Thursday, January 26, 2023

House Republicans Name Advocate For Conventional Oil & Gas Industry Rep. Martin Causer Chair Of House Environmental Committee

On January 26, House Republican leader Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) announced the
appointment of Republican Committee Chairs-- Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron) was named Republican Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
“Now more than ever, Pennsylvania’s role as an energy producer is vital to the future of our Commonwealth and our nation,” Rep. Causer said. “I look forward to advancing policies that will grow our energy industry and opposing those that seek to crush it.” 
Rep. Causer told the Bradford Era: “We need to be maximizing energy production, which will benefit our state and the nation,” he said. That will be his focus, Causer added, “really maximizing energy production and the wise use of our resources.
“We have the resources here, whether it’s oil and gas, or timber issues. Coal is still a big issue in Pennsylvania.”
For years, Rep. Causer has spoken out about agency bureaucrats who attempt to legislate by passing regulations. Now, he said, “I will be pushing back against overregulation. I’ve seen bureaucrats overregulate continuously. That’s how you stifle development.”  Read more here.

Rep. Causer was prime sponsor of House Bill 2644 that Gov. Wolf allowed to become law last year blocking any increase in conventional oil and gas well plugging bond amounts for 10 years and that continued the total exemption from bonding for wells drilled before April of 1985 (which is most of them) making taxpayers liable for over $5.1 billion in well plugging and cleanup costs.  Read more here.

Rep. Causer was also prime sponsor of House Bill 1144 from last year that would have rolled back environmental protection standards for conventional oil and gas well drilling to the 1980s.  Read more here.

The legislation also legalized the practice of disposing of untreated conventional drilling wastewater by dumping it on dirt and gravel roads. Read more here.

The legislation was opposed by the PA Council of Trout Unlimited and a variety of environmental groups.

Gov. Wolf vetoed similar legislation in 2020.  Read more here.

In addition to his work as Republican ERE chairman, Rep. Causer was also reappointed to the DCED Pennsylvania Grade Crude [Oil] Development Advisory Council, on which he has served since its creation under Act 52 of 2016. 

The council was created to advise and assist the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to prevent overregulation of the conventional oil and gas industry, and to develop a plan to increase production of Pennsylvania grade crude. 

Rep. Causer was also appointed to serve on the Environmental Quality Board, a 20-member board which is responsible for reviewing and giving final approval to Department of Environmental Protection regulations.

Report On Conventional Oil & Gas Compliance

On December 29, the Department of Environmental Protection released the first-ever assessment of how well conventional oil and gas drillers comply with state environmental laws and concluded, “(the) conventional oil and gas industry’s recent record of compliance with Pennsylvania law is simply not good, particularly with regard to improper abandonment of wells.”  Read more here.

“A significant change in the culture of non-compliance as an acceptable norm in the conventional oil and gas industry will need to occur before meaningful improvement can happen.”

“This record of non-compliance will require DEP to further develop and refine its techniques for deterring violations and encouraging compliance with relevant statutory and regulatory provisions.

The report said conventional oil and gas drillers were issued 3,123 notices of violations for new well abandonments and 217 violations for failure to plug a well to stop the vertical flow of fluids or gas out of the well.  Read more here.

Wells abandoned by conventional operators must all be plugged at taxpayer expense.  Conventional operators don’t contribute a dime.  By some estimates taxpayers are now on the hook for over $5.1 billion in conventional well plugging costs.  Read more here.

The report made a series of recommendations on how to prevent new well abandonments.  Read more here.


-- Bradford Era: Rep. Causer To Chair House Energy, Environmental Resource Committee

PA DEP Public Notice Dashboards:

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Jan. 14  to 20  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - Jan. 21  [PaEN]

PA Oil & Gas Industry Compliance Reports:

-- DEP Report Finds: Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers Routinely Abandon Wells; Fail To Report How Millions Of Gallons Of Waste Is Disposed; And Non-Compliance Is An ‘Acceptable Norm’  [PaEN]

-- DEP 2021 Oil & Gas Program Annual Report Shows Conventional Oil & Gas Operators Received A Record 610 Notices Of Violation For Abandoning Wells Without Plugging Them  [PaEN]

-- DEP Releases 2 More Bid Solicitations To Plug 43 Abandoned Conventional Gas Wells In Clarion County All At Taxpayer Expense, Industry Doesn’t Pay A Dime [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industry Has Record Year: Cost, Criminal Convictions Up; $3.1 Million In Penalties Collected; Record Number Of Violations Issued; Major Compliance Issues Uncovered; Evidence Of Health Impacts Mounts  [PaEN]

-- Feature: 60 Years Of Fracking, 20 Years Of Shale Gas: Pennsylvania’s Oil & Gas Infrastructure Is Hiding In Plain Sight  [PaEN]

NewsClips This Week:

-- StateImpactPA - Rachel McDevitt: PA Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers Abandoned Thousands Of Natural Gas Wells Over 5 Years, Ignored State Law, DEP Report Says 

-- Center For Coalfield Justice Blog: DEP Reports Conventional Oil & Gas Industry Has A Culture Of Noncompliance Not Likely To Change Soon, More Resources, Updated Regulations Needed

-- Environmental Health News: What Happens If The Largest Owner Of Conventional Oil & Gas Wells In The U.S. [Diversified Energy]  Goes Bankrupt? 

Related Articles This Week:

-- DCED’s Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Advisory Council Meets Feb. 16  [PaEN]

-- Natural Gas Industry, Senate Republicans Launch Effort To Unleash The Industry, Reduce Regulation, Call For Automatic Approval Of Permits, Limit Public Comments  [PaEN] 

-- Damascus Citizens For Sustainability Files Lawsuit Challenging The Delaware River Basin Commission Fracking Wastewater Rule Generally And For Allowing Road Dumping Of Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Creating Widespread Pollution  [PaEN]

-- FracTracker Alliance Seeking Information On Use Of Drones For Environmental Monitoring Work; Feb. 3 Online Meeting Set On Oil & Gas Facility Monitoring Project  [PaEN]

-- Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community  Feb. 1 Monthly Eyes On Shell Meeting. 7:30 p.m.

-- What Can We Expect From Gov. Shapiro, Lt. Gov. Davis On Environmental, Energy Issues? [PaEN] 

[Posted: January 26, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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