Wednesday, June 5, 2024

House Environmental Committee Hearing On Road Dumping Oil & Gas Wastewater Set For June 10; A Voting Meeting On Bill To Ban Road Dumping June 11

House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee is scheduled to hold a June 10 hearing on the issue of road dumping oil and gas wastewater as a waste disposal method.

The Committee is also scheduled to hold a voting meeting June 11 on House Bill 2384 [copy of text] sponsored by Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware), Majority Chair of the Committee.

The bill would ban the road spreading and land application of “oil-related and gas-related wastewater, tophole water, production water of any type, brine or wastewater sludge from conventional or unconventional oil and gas wells.”

It would also prohibit DEP from considering oil and gas wastewater as a co-product for use as a dust suppressant, for road deicing or for road stabilization.

Trucks hauling oil and gas wastewater would be prohibited from having spreading bars or other equipment for discharging the wastewater on a road.
Tophole water could still be land applied at the well drilling site, according to DEP’s regulations.

The Committee will also consider House Bill 2238 (Scott-D-Montgomery) banning certain common consumer products from containing PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals.’

The voting meeting will be held on June 11 in Room 205 Ryan Building starting at 10:00 a.m.  Click Here to watch online.


The Committee is tentatively scheduled to hear comments from--

-- Dr. William Burgos, Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Penn State

-- Eric Chase, Penn State Center for Dirt and Gravel Road Studies

-- Kurt Klapkowski, DEP Deputy Secretary for Oil & Gas Management

-- David Hess, Former Secretary of DEP

-- Jack Lee Jr., Summit Twp. Supervisor, PA State Assn. Of Township Supervisors

-- Tom Pike, Protect PT

The June 10 hearing will be held in Room G-50 in the Irvis Building starting at 10:00 a.m.  Click Here to watch online.

Background - Research Consistently Shows Health, Environmental Harm

Research on the health and environmental impacts have consistently shown dumping conventional oil and gas wastewater on public dirt, gravel and paved roads have negative health and environmental impacts.

Starting in 1996, a study by DEP concluded this practice has the potential to result in adverse environmental impacts to ground and surface water quality because of the contaminants it contains.  Read more here.

An industry-sponsored study in 1997 concluded-- “The water quality data generated from this study indicates that the long term discharge of shallow oil field produced water to the ground surface is not a viable management practice."  Read more here.

Multiple studies by Penn State have shown threats of health and environmental harm from road dumping of conventional wastewater.

One of the lead researchers-- Dr. William Burgos, a Penn State Professor of Environmental Engineering, told the April 17 Senate hearing-- “There’s no more research that needs to be done” to justify adopting a state ban on the road dumping of conventional oil and gas wastewater.  Read more here.

Dr. Burgos added-- “Pennsylvania should ban road spreading of O&G PW [oil and gas wastewater].” Read more here.

“There is no public benefit to road spreading O&G PWs [oil and gas wastewater]…. It is all risk, no reward. The only beneficiaries are the O&G [oil and gas] operators who choose this disposal option.”  Read more here.

“The ineffectiveness and potential pollution of wastewater spreading make the practice an unsuitable alternative for dust suppression on Pennsylvania roads.”  Read more here.

In addition, another Penn State study concluded there were not a lot of differences between conventional and unconventional shale gas wastewater, according to Dr. Burgos.  Read more here.

DEP banned the road dumping of wastewater from shale gas drilling operations in 2016 because of the threats it posed.

Attempts To Regulate Disposal Before Failed

There have been attempts to regulate the road dumping of conventional wastewater before to reduce its environmental and health impacts.

Starting in 1996, the Ridge Administration looked at road dumping and the environmental impacts of this disposal method.  Read more here.

The result was a set of guidelines in 1998 that limited how much could be dumped on roads and where so it wouldn’t run off and pollute.   Read more here.

The industry failed to comply with the limits on how they dumped or required reporting.

They just kept dumping.

DEP just said 86% of conventional oil and gas well owners continue to fail to report how much waste they produce and where they dispose of for 33,505 wells in 2023.  Read more here.

The DEP Oil and Gas Program process for approving road dumping ended in 2018 with the settlement of Siri Lawson’s appeal before the Environmental Hearing Board.  Read more here.

But, that did not stop the conventional well owners.

Well owners turned to DEP’s Residual Waste Program and the “beneficial use” coproduct process to get their waste approved for road dumping.

But, DEP said the industry didn’t meet those requirements either.  Read more here.

Road dumping remains illegal as a result, but the industry keeps dumping. Read more here. 

Non-Compliance A Norm

Non-compliance with regulations and the law is not an isolated event with conventional well owners.

In December 2022, DEP issued a first-ever assessment of compliance by conventional well owners that found “non-compliance” is an “acceptable norm in the conventional oil and gas industry.”  Read more here.

As a widespread business practice, conventional well owners also routinely abandon more oil and gas wells annually than Pennsylvania is plugging with taxpayer money in the new federal well plugging program.  Read more here.

In 2023, DEP issued notices of violation to 271 conventional oil and gas wells for abandoning and not plugging those wells. Read more here.

So far in 2024, conventional well owners received 420 violations for abandoning and not plugging wells.  Read more here.

They also pass conventional wells off to other owners with less financial capacity to actually manage them, setting them on the path to abandonment.  Read more here.

In 2023, DEP reported 89% of conventional oil and gas well owners failed to submit annual well integrity reports for 34,455 wells to ensure they aren’t leaking oil or venting gas.  Read more here.

DEP issued a record 6,860 notices of violations to conventional well owners for breaking all kinds of regulations and laws in 2023.  Read more here.

That’s 51.9% more than in 2021 and 569.9% more than in 2015.

Kurt Klapkowski, DEP Deputy Secretary for Oil and Gas Management, told the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee in March-- 

“Unfortunately, reviewing inspection and compliance data developed since 2017, DEP has identified widespread non-compliance with laws and regulations in the conventional oil and gas industry, particularly regarding improper abandonment of oil and gas wells but also not reporting hydrocarbon and waste production and conducting mechanical integrity assessments.”

Attorney General Investigation

The fact conventional well owners continue to road dump hasn’t gone unnoticed.

According to a consultant for conventional oil and gas well owners, the state Office of Attorney General has been investigating the illegal disposal of conventional drilling wastewater by road dumping under DEP’s Residual Waste Regulations  Read more here.

No charges have been announced, yet.

Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-787-7647 or sending email to: Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-5075 or by sending email to:


-- The Allegheny Front - Kara Holsopple: Former DEP Secretary Wants Spreading Of Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater On Roads To Remain Illegal

Road Dumping Intimidation:

-- Week 10: Illegal Dumping Of Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Continues Unabated On Paved, Dirt Roads, Before It Rains, It Doesn’t Matter In Warren County  [PaEN - 5.30.24]   

-- Illegal Wastewater Dumping Continues, Even On Mothers Day, Conventional Oil & Gas Well Owners’ Campaign Of Intimidation Of Senate Witness; Now Dumping Before It Rains, On Paved Roads [PaEN - 5.14.24] 

-- Two Months: Road Dumping Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Continues To Surround The Home Of A Senate Witness Who Opposes The Illegal Practice  [PaEN - 5.7.24]

-- Road Dumping Continues At Will As Conventional Oil & Gas Well Owners Get Rid Of Their Wastewater  [PaEN - 4.5.24]

-- Spring Road Dumping Season Underway As Conventional Oil & Gas Operators Get Rid Of Their Wastewater   [PaEN - 3.19.24] 

Resource Links - Senate Hearing On Road Dumping:

-- Senate Hearing: The Case For An Immediate, Total Ban On Road Dumping Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater  [PaEN]

-- Senate Hearing: Penn State Expert: ‘No More Research That Needs To Be Done’ To Justify A Ban On Road Dumping Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater  [PaEN] 

-- Senate Hearing: First-Hand Account Of Health, Environmental Impacts From Road Dumping Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater - ‘Inhaling Oil & Gas Wastewater 24-Hours A Day’  [PaEN]

-- Senate Hearing: 3.5 Million Gallons Of Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Dumped On PA Public Roads Since DEP’s ‘Moratorium’ On Dumping Started 6 Years Ago  [PaEN] 

-- Senate Hearing: DEP Still Evaluating The Data On Road Dumping Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater; Asks Public To Report Road Dumping  [PaEN]

-- Do You Live In An Oil & Gas Wastewater Disposal Facility? Public Roads In 84 Municipalities In PA, One County In NY Are Being Used As Disposal Areas For Wastewater  [PaEN]

-- DEP: 86% Of Conventional Oil & Gas Well Owners Did Not Comply With Waste Disposal, Production Reporting For 33,505 Wells In 2023  [PaEN - 3.29.24]

[Posted: June 5, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

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