Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Environmental Quality Board Meets July 11 To Consider Changes To Water Quality Standards; DEP Reports Law Limiting Its Authority To Change Conventional Oil & Gas Well Bonding May Be Unconstitutional

On July 11, the
Environmental Quality Board will consider DEP’s report on a rulemaking petition to raise the well plugging bonding amounts for conventional oil and gas wells, proposed changes to state water quality criteria and other regulations.

Conventional Well Bonding

In response to a rulemaking petition submitted by the Sierra Club and other groups in September of 2021, DEP reported to the EQB it no longer has the authority to adjust well bonding amounts for 10 years under Act 96 passed and signed into law by Gov. Wolf on July 19, 2022.

As a result of that change in law, DEP recommends the Board deny the petition.

The petitioners agree DEP and the Board no longer have that statutory authority for 10 years.

DEP did say this in response to comments by the petitioners-- “While the Department agrees that the current bonding requirements for conventional oil and gas wells are insufficient, once the General Assembly suspended the EQB’s statutory authority to establish bond amounts, the Department did not conduct an analysis of all of the factual assertions and financial assessments made in the Petition.”

In response to another petitioner comment that DEP has an obligation as a trustee under the Environmental Rights Amendment to the state constitution to ensure oil and gas wells are properly remediated, DEP said Act 96 may be unconstitutional--

“The Department acknowledges that it is one of the Article I, Section 27 Commonwealth trustees, and is one of the executive agencies responsible for protecting and preserving the rights contained in Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. 

“The Department and the EQB do not necessarily agree with the characterization of the extent of the Commonwealth’s trustee obligations, but do not dispute that the Commonwealth must comply with the constitution. 

“However, the passage of Act 96 by the General Assembly – also a Commonwealth trustee under Article I, Section 27 – eliminated the statutory authority of the EQB to establish bond amounts. Article I, Section 27 does not overcome the prerequisite of EQB rulemakings to be authorized by statute. 

To the extent Act 96 restrains the agencies’ powers to carry out the Commonwealth’s constitutional obligations, the act may be unconstitutional

Neither the Department nor the EQB can resolve this constitutional conflict. Likewise, the EQB may not adopt regulations that are not supported by statute.”

Click Here for DEP’s report on the petition.

Triennial Review Of Water Quality Standards.

This proposed rulemaking updates a variety of water quality standards and narrative criteria to maintain water uses and antidegradation requirements under the federal Clean Water Act.

The proposal makes these changes, among others--

-- New Aquatic Life Criteria: Carbaryl and Tributyltin

-- Revised Aquatic Life Criteria: Cadmium

-- New Human Health Criteria: 1,4-Dioxane, Chlorophenoxy herbicide (2,4-D)

-- Revised Human Health Criteria- Less Stringent: Acetone, Formaldehyde, Metolachlor, Resorcinol, Chloroform

-- Revised Human Health Criteria- More Stringent: Barium, Boron, Meth ethyl ketone,  1,2,3-trichloropropane, 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, 1,3,5-trimethylbenzene, Chlorophenoxy herbicide (2,4-D) and Xylene

--Human Health Criteria- No Change: Acrylamide, 2-Butoxy ethanol, cyclohexylamine, strontium, benzyl chloride

Click Here for a summary of the rulemaking.

Site-Specific Methylmercury Standard

This proposed rulemaking would change the site-specific water quality standard for methylmercury in Ebaughs Creek in York County from 0.05 ug/L to 0.00004 ug/L in response to a request by the York County Solid Waste and Refuse Authority.

Click Here for a summary of the rulemaking.

Vanadium Standard

A final regulation would set contamination cleanup standards for vanadium under the Land Recycling Program.

The standard is based on more recent toxicity information from the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for this element than can be naturally occurring.

Click Here for a summary of the rulemaking.

The meeting will be held in Room 105 Rachel Carson Building starting at 9:00 a.m.  Visit the Board webpage for options to join the meeting remotely.

For available handouts and other background on agenda items, visit DEP’s Environmental Quality Board meeting. Questions should be directed to Laura Griffin at or (717) 772-3277.

Related Articles - Conventional Well Abandonment:

-- Democrats On House Environmental Committee Report Out Bill To Help Prevent The Routine Abandonment Of 561 Conventional Oil/Gas Wells A Year  [PaEN]

-- 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]

-- EDF: Pennsylvania Has 55,000 Oil/Gas Wells At High Risk Of Being Abandoned; 51,000 Wells At Risk Of Being Transferred To Low Solvency Owners; Current Conventional Well Owners Abandon 561 Wells A Year, On Average  [PaEN]

-- House Hearing: Let’s Work Together To Make Conventional Oil & Gas Industry Practices Cleaner, Respect Property Rights, Protect Taxpayers And Prevent New Abandoned Wells   [PaEN]

PA Oil & Gas Public Notice Dashboards:

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - June 24 to 30 - Radiation Levels Prompt Shale Gas Wastewater Tank Decontamination; Replugging Conventional, Shale Gas Wells  [PaEN] 

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment -  July 1   [PaEN] 

-- DEP Posts 57 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In July 1 PA Bulletin  [PaEN] 


-- Children’s Health Defense News: For Decades He Railed Against Fracking In Washington County - Now His Wife Has A Type Of Cancer Linked To Fracking Chemicals

-- Capital & Main - Audrey Carleton: Who Is Blocking Climate, Oil & Gas Bills In Pennsylvania? 

-- TribLive: Concerns Over Proposed Invenergy Natural Gas-Fired Power Plant In Elizabeth Township To Be Aired Tuesday, June 27 

-- TribLive: Opposition Continues On Proposed Natural Gas-Fired Power Plant On Yough River

-- The Center Square - Anthony Hennen: PA’s Natural Gas Act 13 Impact Fee Boom Year May Go Bust Next Year

-- Observer-Reporter Letter: Act 13 Drilling Impact Fees Don’t Help Those Impacted By Gas Drilling - By Cathy Lodge, Washington County 

-- Observer-Reporter Letter: The Definition Of Insanity - Have Qualified Stewards Of Our Health, Environment, Learning, Play Spend Washington County’s $9 Million In Act 13 Impact Fee Money

-- Natural Gas Intelligence: Federal Court Voids Chesapeake Energy Settlement In PA Natural Gas Royalty Dispute

-- Vermont State Police: Joint Investigation Into June 1 Natural Gas Tanker Fire Finds Truck Was Destroyed And Damaged U.S. Route 7 In Ferrisburgh Was The Result Of Mechanical Failure

-- Wall Street Journal: Cheaper Natural Gas Prices In Store This Summer; Earlier Price Spikes Driven By Europe’s LNG Imports

Related Articles This Week:

-- Senate Overwhelmingly Confirms Richard Negrin As Secretary Of DEP  [PaEN]

-- House Democratic Leadership Blocks Environmental Committee Action On Bills Increasing Safety Zones Around Natural Gas Facilities, Cryptocurrency Permit Moratorium  [PaEN] 

-- Environmental Quality Board Meets July 11 To Consider Changes To Water Quality Standards; DEP Reports Law Limiting Its Authority To Change Conventional Oil & Gas Well Bonding May Be Unconstitutional [PaEN]

-- DEP Citizens Advisory Council Meets July 11 On Programs To Promote Use Of Electric Vehicles; Chapter 105 Environmental Assessment Alternatives Analysis  [PaEN]

-- Independent Fiscal Office Projects 2023 Act 13 Shale Gas Drilling Impact Fee Revenue At $180 to $184 Million, A Drop Of $94 Million From 2022 Revenue  [PaEN] 

-- Pennsylvania Groups Call For Transparency With State Plans For Carbon Capture, Storage  [PaEN]

[Posted: June 28, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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