Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Senators Santarsiero, Comitta Introduce SB 581 Increasing Setback Safety Zones From Natural Gas Drilling Sites, Other Infrastructure, Based On Latest Science

On January 22, Senators
Steven Santarsiero (D-Bucks) and Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester), Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, introduced Senate Bill 581 to increase setback safety zones from natural gas drilling sites and other infrastructure based on the latest science.

The legislation would increase the distance from buildings and water wells from 500 to 2,500 feet and to 5,000 feet from reservoirs, schools and hospitals.  

Gas drilling is currently not allowed within 1,000 feet of a public water supply well, water intake, reservoir or other water supply extraction point used by a water purveyor without the consent of the owner.

Click Here for a copy of the co-sponsor memo announcing the legislation.

Related Legislation

Sen. Santarsiero and others also introduced legislation giving the state Attorney General original jurisdiction to prosecute environmental crimes under the Solid Waste Management Act, Clean Streams Law and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The bills include--

-- Senate Bill 587: Providing the state Attorney General with concurrent jurisdiction in environmental crimes under Solid Waste Management Act;

-- Senate Bill 588: Providing the state Attorney General with concurrent jurisdiction in environmental crimes under Clean Streams Law; and

-- Senate Bill 589: Providing the state Attorney General with concurrent jurisdiction in environmental crimes under Safe Drinking Water Act;

Sen. Santarsiero also introduce legislation-- Senate Bill 586-- to require a two year waiting period before employees from DEP can be employed by the oil and gas industry.

All of these bills were referred to the Environmental Resources & Energy Committee, whose Majority Chair is Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming).


 Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Callahan told the Pittsburgh Business Times when the legislation was announced last September, “Any legislative effort to increase setbacks is a back-door ban on natural gas development that would eliminate thousands of good-paying Pennsylvania jobs, deprive citizens of their property rights and billions of dollars in royalty income, and reverse the clean air progress natural gas has delivered.  

He continued-- “Not grounded in reality or fact, this extreme measure ignores Pennsylvania's strong regulatory framework and the record of our members to produce natural gas safely and responsibly."

In October, after a House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee hearing on similar legislation to increase setback safety zones from natural gas infrastructure, Sen. Yaw called the legislation “stupid.”  Read more here.

“Earlier today, the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held a public hearing on House Bill 170, which would expand setback requirements for natural gas wells in Pennsylvania to between 2,500 – 5,000 feet.

“It is often said that we cannot legislate against stupidity. That is true but we can stop stupid legislation from becoming law. 

“Should House Bill 170 or any similar legislation pass the House of Representatives, it will not be considered in the Senate.”

“Make no mistake. House Bill 170 is a ban on natural gas development in Pennsylvania. It is horrible legislation from an environmental, economic and property rights perspective.”

Click Here to read Sen. Yaw’s entire statement.

On November 29, Sen. Yaw received the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s 2023 Shale Gas Advocate Award.  Read more here.

Latest Science

A 2016 study led by health researchers at the University of Pittsburgh examined the adequacy of unconventional natural gas drilling setbacks in the three largest and most heavily drilled natural gas plays in the U.S.   Read more here.

The study looked at air pollution, blowouts and evacuations, and thermal modeling and found that “(C)urrent natural gas well setbacks in…the Marcellus Shale of Pennsylvania… cannot be considered sufficient in all cases to protect public health and safety.”

In August 2023, studies released by the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health found children living within 10 miles of producing natural gas wells have a link to adverse health impacts.  Read more here.

Among the study findings were--

-- Can Make Asthma Worse: “We learned that there was a strong link between the production phase of unconventional natural gas development and severe exacerbations, emergency department visits and hospitalizations for asthma in people living within 10 miles of one or more wells producing natural gas.

“Specifically, people with asthma have a 4 to 5 times greater chance of having an asthma attack if they live near unconventional natural gas development wells during the production phase.”

-- Lymphoma More Likely In Children: “Results indicated that children who lived within 1 mile of one or more wells had approximately 5 to 7 times the chance of developing lymphoma, a relatively rare type of cancer, compared to children who lived in an area without wells within 5 miles.

“Data suggest that those who lived closer to greater intensity of unconventional natural gas development activities had the highest risk.

“For perspective, the incidence of lymphoma is, on average, 0.0012% in US children under 20 years of age.  [This study] estimates that rate would be 0.006% to 0.0084% for children living within 1 mile of a well.”

-- Slightly Lower Birth Weights: “We learned that babies were about 1 ounce smaller at birth-- something that, in most cases, poses little health risk-- when born to mothers who lived near active wells during the production phase, or compressor stations or facilities accepting oil and gas waste.

“We also found that mothers who lived near active wells were more likely to have babies who were small for gestational age.”

The Pittsburgh-based Environmental Health Project, which has been studying health impacts from natural gas development for more than 10 years, said the results of the latest University of Pittsburgh health studies are “very concerning.”   Read more here.

“We at the Environmental Health Project are not surprised that these new studies reveal significant correlations between shale gas development and health issues. 

“The results of the studies complement those of other studies and reinforce the scientific consensus that shale gas development is unsafe, especially for vulnerable populations like children, the elderly, pregnant individuals, and those with existing health conditions.

The asthma study is especially concerning because it shows that asthmatics living close to these sites are 4 to 5 times more likely to develop severe asthma symptoms or to require emergency department visits and hospitalizations. 

“These significant respiratory health impacts can occur up to 10 miles from well sites during the production phase of extraction—the longest phase of shale gas development—which can go on for a decade or more.

“The lymphoma study, which found that children living within one mile of one or more wells were 5 to 7 times more likely to develop this relatively rare form of cancer, is also very concerning. 

“Because most forms of cancer have long latency periods, we could expect to see more diagnoses of lymphoma and other cancers going forward.

“The birth outcomes study, which found that infants born to pregnant individuals who lived near wells during the production phase were 20-40 grams (about one ounce) smaller at birth, is concerning and adds to the body of research from a number of other birth outcomes studies that show a range of adverse health impacts for pregnant individuals and infants.”

They noted approximately 1.5 million Pennsylvanians live within a half mile of oil and gas wells. 

The Environmental Health Project recommended increasing setback safety zones to 1 kilometer (3,300 feet) from small facilities and 2 kilometers (6,600 feet) from large facilities, schools, nursing homes and other structures accommodating vulnerable populations.  Read more here.

On October 18, 2023, the Concerned Health Professionals of NY and Physicians for Social Responsibility released the 9th Compendium of Scientific, Medical, Media Findings Demonstrating Risk, Harms of Natural Gas Development and Infrastructure.

The Compendium summarizes the latest resources that describe the health and other impacts of natural gas development and infrastructure organized by topic. It also offers a review of trends in research findings.

The summary conclusion of the 9th Compendium on natural gas development research is--

“The rapidly expanding body of evidence compiled here is massive, troubling and cries out for decisive action.

“Across a wide range of parameters, the data continue to reveal a plethora of recurring problems that cannot be sufficiently averted through regulatory frameworks.

“The risks and harms of fracking are inherent in its operation.”  Read more here.

Shapiro Grand Jury Report

A 2020 Grand Jury Report commissioned by then Attorney General Josh Shapiro found systematic failure by government agencies in overseeing the shale gas industry and fulfilling their responsibility to protect Pennsylvanians from the risks of industry operations.

The Grand Jury recommendations included--

-- Expanding No-Drill Zones: Expanding no-drill zones in Pennsylvania from the required 500 feet to 2,500 feet;

-- Chemical Disclosure: Requiring fracking companies to publicly disclose all chemicals used in drilling and hydraulic fracturing before they are used on-site;

-- Gathering Pipelines: Requiring the regulation of gathering lines, used to transport unconventional gas hundreds of miles;

-- Assess Air Quality: Adding up all sources of air pollution in a given area to accurately assess air quality;

-- Safe Transport Of Waste: Requiring safer transport of the contaminated waste created from fracking sites;

-- Comprehensive Health Response: Conducting a comprehensive health response to the effects of living near unconventional drilling sites;

-- Limit Revolving Door: Limiting the ability of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection employees to be employed in the private sector immediately after leaving the Department;

-- Direct Criminal Jurisdiction: Allowing the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General original criminal jurisdiction over unconventional oil and gas companies.

Click Here for a copy of the Grand Jury Report.   Read more here.

In April, an Inside Climate News article quoted a spokesperson for now Gov. Shapiro  saying the Governor’s Office supports the key recommendations in the Grand Jury Report.  Read more here.

Related Articles - Oil & Gas Health Impacts:

-- House Committee Hearing On Increasing Safety Setbacks Zones Around Natural Gas Facilities Heard About First-Hand Citizen Experiences On Health Impacts, From Physicians On Health Studies And The Gas Industry On Job Impacts [PaEN]

-- Sen. Yaw, Republican Chair Of Senate Environmental Committee, Calls Bill To Reduce Shale Gas Industry Impacts On Health, Environment ‘Stupid’ [PaEN]

-- Marcellus Drilling News: Senate Republican Leaders Urge DEP To Withdraw Environmental Justice Policy Saying They Lack Statutory Authority, And Out-of-State Groups Not Actual Residents Express EJ Concerns  [PaEN]

-- State Dept. Of Health Pushing For Changes To Reduce Adverse Health Impacts From Natural Gas Development  [PaEN]

-- State Dept. Of Health Apologizes For Not Listening To Communities Suffering Health Impacts From Shale Gas Development; New Health Study Results ‘Just The Tip Of The Iceberg’  [PaEN]

-- State Dept. Of Health Invites Citizens To File Environmental Health Complaints Related To Natural Gas Development; Health Will Also Review Environmental Test Results  [PaEN]

-- Post-Gazette Editorial: Who Pays For Natural Gas Development’s Harm?  Pennsylvania Should Acknowledge The Clear Fact That Fracking Has Hurt People, Specifically Children  [PaEN]

-- TribLive Editorial: Is Shapiro's Voluntary Agreement With CNX The Right Move For Gas Well Safety? 'We Do Not Trust Foxes To Guard Henhouses'  [PaEN]

-- The Energy Age Blog: The Story Of Bryan & Ryan Latkanich In Washington County

-- Gov. Shapiro: We Need Stronger Laws To Deal With The ‘Corporate Greed’ That Let Oil & Gas Operators Get Away With Abandoning Wells For Far Too Long  [PaEN]

-- University Of Pittsburgh School Of Public Health Studies Find Shale Gas Wells Can Make Asthma Worse; Children Have An Increased Chance Of Developing Lymphoma Cancer; Slightly Lower Birth Weights  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project Finds Results ‘Very Concerning’ From University Of Pittsburgh Studies Showing Links Between Natural Gas Development And Lymphoma Cancer, Worsening Asthma Conditions, Lower Birth Weights  [PaEN]

-- Between The Lines Podcast: Pediatrician Dr. Ned Ketyer Explains The Results Of New Studies Of The Health Impacts Of Natural Gas Development On Children And Adults  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project: Gov. Shapiro Must Acknowledge Health Risks Of Natural Gas Development And Take Meaningful Action To Protect The Public  [PaEN]

-- Videos Now Available From PA League Of Women Voters, University Of Pittsburgh School Of Public Health Shale Gas & Public Health Conference; Dept. Of Health Pushing For Changes To Reduce Adverse Health Impacts  [PaEN]

-- Senate Hearing: Body Of Evidence Is 'Large, Growing,’ ‘Consistent’ And 'Compelling' That Shale Gas Development Is Having A Negative Impact On Public Health; PA Must Act  [PaEN]

-- 9th Compendium Of Studies On Health & Environmental Harms From Natural Gas Development Released - ‘The Rapidly Expanding Body Of Evidence Compiled Here Is Massive, Troubling And Cries Out For Decisive Action’  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project: PA’s Natural Gas Boom - What Went Wrong? Why Does It Matter?  What Can We Do Better To Protect Public Health?  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project: Setback Distances And The Regulations We Need To Protect Public Health From Oil & Gas Facilities  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project: How DEP Issues Permits For Shale Gas Facilities Without Considering Cumulative Impacts - How New Facilities Will Add To Existing Pollution Loads And Impact The Area  PaEN]

-- New Penn State Study Finds Runoff From Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Dumped On Unpaved Roads Contains Pollutants That Exceed Human-Health, Environmental Standards  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project - Part 1: Personal Narrative Of Environmental, Health Impacts From Oil & Gas Drilling On Siri Lawson, Warren County [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project - Part II: Personal Narrative Of Environmental, Health Impacts From Oil & Gas Drilling On Siri Lawson, Warren County  [PaEN]

-- Petro Erie, Inc. Says It Lacks The Financial Ability To Comply With DEP’s Order To Clean Up Conventional Oil Well Wastewater That Contaminated The Village Of Reno’s Water Supply In Venango County; Will Taxpayers Be Stuck With Cleanup Costs Again?  [PaEN]

-- Former Employees Of Eureka Resources Oil & Gas Wastewater Treatment Company Ask For Criminal Investigation Of Eureka And An Audit Of DEP Over Alleged Workplace, Environmental Violations [PaEN]

-- DEP: Widespread Presence Of PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ In Fresh Water May Have Led To ‘Inadvertently’ Using Contaminated Water For Fracking Gas Wells In Washington County  [PaEN]

-- DEP Reports Shale Gas Operations Sent Over 138,000 Cubic Feet Of Radioactive TENORM Waste To Low-Level Radioactive Waste Facilities For Disposal In 2022 - Over  911,000 Cubic Feet Since 2017  [PaEN]

PA Weekly Oil & Gas Industry Public Notice Dashboards:

-- PA Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Jan. 20 to 26 - 15 More Abandoned Conventional Wells; Plugging Abandoned Shale Gas Wells; Revolution Pipeline Land Slip; Brief Compressor Fire; Crypto Mining?  What's That Pink Stuff?  [PaEN]

-- 5 Months Later, Roulette Oil & Gas Still Has Not Resolved Violations For Abandoning A Shale Gas Well Without Plugging It In Potter County  [PaEN]

-- XTO Energy Begins Plugging First Of 4 Abandoned Shale Gas Wells At Butler County Well Pad [PaEN]

-- 66 Months Later, DEP Worked With Conventional Well Owner, But Multiple Spills At A Well  Site Have Still Not Been Cleaned Up; No Protections In Place For Operators Or Taxpayers  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - January 27  [PaEN]

-- DEP Posted 84 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In January 27 PA Bulletin  [PaEN] 

2023 Oil & Gas Compliance Reports:

-- DEP Issued At Least 512 Violations To 95 Conventional Oil & Gas Operators For Abandoning Wells Without Plugging Them In 2023; 10 Shale Gas Operators Were Issued NOVs For Abandoning Wells  [PaEN]

-- DEP Issues Record 6,860 Notices Of Violation To Conventional Oil & Gas Operators In 2023-- Nearly 52% More Than In 2021; ‘Culture Of Non-Compliance’ Continues  [PaEN]

-- 2023 Shale Gas Operator Compliance Report: 1,310 Violations; Explosions; Pad Fire, Evacuation; Uncontrolled Gas Venting; Frack-Outs; Polluting Water Supply; Spills; Pipeline Crashing Thru A Home; More  [PaEN]

-- PA Environment Digest: Articles On Oil & Gas Facility Impacts

Related Articles This Week:

-- Senators Santarsiero, Comitta Introduce SB 581 Increasing Setback Safety Zones From Natural Gas Drilling Sites, Other Infrastructure, Based On Latest Science  [PaEN]

-- DEP To Require Unconventional Shale Gas Operators To Disclose Chemicals Used In Drilling, Fracking Operations Earlier In Well Drilling Process Thru PPC Emergency Plan Changes  [PaEN]

-- DEP Extends Deadline Of First Methane Pollution Report From Oil & Gas Facilities To June 1, 2024  [PaEN] 

-- Marcellus Drilling News: DEP Approves Catalyst Energy Oil & Gas Wastewater Injection Well In McKean County  [Jan. 26 Inspection Found Gas Bubbling From Well]  [PaEN]

-- PUC: Act 13 Drilling Impact Fees To Drop By 25% For Fees Due On 2023 Wells; Total Revenue To Drop By Nearly $105 Million  [PaEN] 

-- Environmental Hearing Board Denies Lackawanna Energy Center Power Plant Motion To Dismiss Boro Of Jessup’s Appeal Of DEP Air Permit  [PaEN] 

-- Environmental Hearing Board Denies Liberty Twp., Citizens Group Appeal Of DEP Tri-County Landfill Permit Over Threats Posed By Birds, Radioactive Oil & Gas Waste In Mercer County  [PaEN] 


-- The Energy Age Blog: The Story Of Bryan & Ryan Latkanich In Washington County

-- StateImpactPA - Rachel McDevitt: PA Tells Frackers To Disclose Chemicals, But It’s Not  Clear Exactly What Changes The Public Will See

-- The Energy Age Blog: Reality - ‘Proprietary’ Fracking Chemicals Remain Secrets, But What About The Bigger Picture?  

-- White House Announces Temporary Pause On Pending Approvals Of LNG Natural Gas Exports

-- DelcoTimes.com: Chester Mayor Says LNG Natural Gas Export Plant ‘Dead In The Water’  

-- AP: Liquefied Natural Gas: What To Know About LNG And Biden’s Decision To Delay Gas Export Proposals  [No Impact On LNG Now Going To Europe, Asia, DOE Can Allow Exemptions On Natural Security Grounds]

-- PA Marcellus Shale Coalition And Natural Gas Industry Partners Urge Biden Administration To Maximize US LNG Economic, Environmental And Security Benefits

-- Reuters: Texas Freeport LNG Natural Gas Export Unit Faces Month-Long Outage After Winter Storm

-- TribLive: 3 More Range Resources Shale Gas Well Pads Approved By Fawn Township, Allegheny County

-- TribLive Letter: Public Water Resources Should Not Used By Shale Gas Companies In Westmoreland County During Declared Drought - By Tom Pike, Protect PT

-- WKBN27: Environmental Advocate Appeal Of Tri-County Landfill Permit Denied By EHB, Citizens Concerned About Disposal Of Radioactive Oil & Gas Waste

-- Marcellus Shale Coalition: Act 13 Drilling Impact Fees Breathe Life Into County & Municipal Projects [Fee Revenue To Drop By Nearly $105 Million In 2024 ]

-- Bloomberg: Diversified Energy Faces Short-Seller Attack From ESG-Focused Snowcap; Faults Environmental, Asset-Retirement Practices  [Largest Conventional Oil & Gas Operator In PA]

[Posted: January 22, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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