Road Dumping Of Oil & Gas Well Wastewater Is Happening Now In Crawford, Erie, Warren Counties As House Prepares To Take Up Bill This Week To Make It Legal

Taken from http://paenvironmentdaily.blogspot.com/2021/05/road-dumping-of-oil-gas-well-wastewater.html?m=1. Please visit the site for much more information on this issue

Witnesses late Friday reported heavy road dumping of oil and gas well wastewater is occurring in southern Warren County and around Oil City in Venango County on back roads off of Route 27.

On Tuesday, witnesses said fresh road dumping of oil and gas well wastewater occurred outside of Corry in Erie County.

The dumping is believed to be wastewater from conventional oil and gas wells.

http://paenvironmentdaily.blogspot.com/2021/05/road-dumping-of-oil-gas-well-wastewater.html?m=1All this is happening now when there is supposed to be a moratorium on road dumping of wastewater as a result of a settlement in a 2017 appeal of DEP’s requirements to the Environmental Hearing Board.  Read more here.

The only road dumping of oil and gas wastewater that is supposed to be happening is under a co-product determination that allows the use of treated waste that has similar properties to commercial products.  Read more here.

A witness said given the volume of road dumping they said is happening now, it is unlikely to all be legal co-product materials.

What Is Road Dumping?

Photos that were part of the 2017-2018 Environmental Hearing Board appeal show the process involved in road dumping. (See photos above from the case with this article.)

Road dumping of oil and gas wastewater on dirt roads involves a vac truck making typically three passes on each section of road using a combination of an open value on the back of the truck and then a blanket pass with a homemade spreader bar that offers no control on the amount of brine spread.

Click Here to see photos from the case.  They were taken by the vac truck operator.

DEP Staff Reductions

DEP’s Oil and Gas Management Program cannot fill an estimated 40 positions– nearly 18 percent of its staff- out of a complement of 226 due to a reduction in revenue from oil and gas drilling permit fees earmarked to fund the program.

These are the staff responsible for enforcing oil and gas drilling-related regulations, including the proper disposal of drilling wastewater.

DEP reported in December it expects a 70 percent decline in revenue from the permit fees this year because of the general downturn in the natural gas industry over the last two years primarily due to natural gas prices.  New fees increases were just effective on August 1, 2020.  Read more here.

House To Move Bill Legalizing Road Dumping

House Republican leadership notified its members Friday they will put House Bill 1144 (Causer-R-Cameron) up for a final vote this week hoping to move it to the Senate quickly.

The bill would not only roll back environmental protection standards for conventional oil and gas wells generally, but would also specifically make road dumping of drilling wastewater legal again. 

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

Opposition

On May 3, the Environmental Defense Fund and the PA Environmental Council wrote to members of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee urging them to vote against House Bill 1144 (Causer-R-Cameron) setting standards for conventional oil and gas drilling because the bill would result in “dramatic reductions to health and environmental protections that are unwarranted and unsafe.”  Read more here.

“Instead of adjusting for true differences between conventional and unconventional operations, House Bill 1144 inappropriately shifts the costs and risks inherent in conventional operations to the citizens of the Commonwealth.”

“While we recognize that low commodity prices have hampered the conventional industry, that challenge is wholly unrelated to protection standards. It certainly does not warrant the unraveling of standards that have been in place, and practiced by both the conventional and unconventional industries, for decades.

“EDF and PEC have continually stated our willingness to come to the table and work with the General Assembly, Administration, and conventional industry to develop an appropriate framework.”

Click Here for a copy of the letter.

On May 4, a letter and petition organized by Berks Gas Truth was sent in anticipation of consideration of the bill by the House Committee.  Read more here.

Although the bill is full of bad provisions, the group focused on the same issue it focused on in the last session when a similar bill, Senate Bill 790, was making its way through the legislature. 

Last year’s bill would have reinstated the practice of road spreading of toxic, radioactive drilling waste on unpaved roads. This year’s bill, and its Senate counterpart, Senate Bill 534, would allow the waste to be spread on paved roads, as well.

Last year, the group presented a letter to the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee the morning of its consideration of Senate Bill 790. The Committee amended the bill to remove the road spreading provision. 

The letter updates and appends that letter to express that much attention has been given to the contents of drilling waste since last year and concerns for potential impacts to water and air quality, human health, and safety have only increased.

“The people spoke clearly last year and the Committee, and ultimately Governor Wolf who vetoed the bill he rightly considered to be a bad bill even without the road spreading provision, heard them. This time, the House is moving this bill very quickly. With only a short time to circulate the letter and petition, we exceeded the number of signatures we’d gathered last time. Let’s face  it, ‘I’d like toxic, radioactive waste to be spread on the roads where I live,’ said no one ever,” said Karen Feridun, Founder of Berks Gas Truth.

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