Senate Environmental Committee Meets Sept. 24 To Move Bill To Regulate Conventional Oil & Gas Wells, Make Road Dumping Of Drilling Wastewater Legal
The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee is scheduled to meet on September 24 to consider Senate Bill 790 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson) which sets environmental protection standards for conventional (not Shale gas) oil and gas well drilling and operation and legalizes the road dumping of drilling wastewater from conventional wells.
Also on the agenda is House Bill 374 (Everett-R- Lycoming) to create the Keystone Tree Fund to create a vehicle and driver license checkoff to provide funding for DCNR’s tree planting programs.
Senate Bill 790 was introduced as a follow up to action by the General Assembly to kill DEP’s final updated conventional drilling regulations in 2016 because the industry thought they were too strict.
The law then created the PA Grade Crude Development Advisory Council, made up of all industry-related individuals, that was supposed to “advise” DEP on development a new update to the conventional drilling regulations, but so far no draft regulations have been discussed by the Council since it was created in 2016.
The bill is a companion to House Bill 1635 (Causer-R-Cameron) also introduced in June. The language in House Bill 1635 passed the House last session as House Bill 2154, moved to the Senate and reported out of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and was awaiting action on the Senate Calendar when the session ended.
Senate Bill 790 has different provisions than House Bill 1635 which turns back the clock of environmental regulation of conventional wells all the way back to 1984.
Some of the key provisions in Senate Bill 790 include--
-- Requires Taxpayers To Fund Regulation Of Conventional Wells: Includes a $5 million appropriation to DEP to regulate conventional wells [to reduce any permit fees] and directs the governor to submit future budgets with an appropriation of not less than $5 million for conventional well regulation (page 74);
-- Preempts Local Ordinances: Prohibiting local ordinances regulating conventional drilling, except under the Municipalities Planning Code and the Flood Plain Management Act (page 71);
-- Legalizes Road Dumping On Drilling Wastewater: Authorizes the use of produced water as a dust suppressant and road stabilizer on unpaved roads with a plan approved by DEP. Does not authorize use of produced water for prewetting, anti-icing or de-icing of roads. Authorizes DEP to develop temporary regulations to establish the program. (page 71);
-- Increases The Threshold For Spill Reporting: Eliminates the requirement to report any spills less than 5 barrels of oil (200 gallons) or 15 barrels of brine (600 gallons) unless the well operator determines there is an immediate threat to public safety, health or the environment. The DEP threshold for reporting now is 5 gallons of a regulated substance, like oil and more than 5 gallons of brine within 24-hour period;
-- Injection Wells: DEP could no longer issue permits for drilling waste injection wells without having official primacy for the program from EPA (page 69);
-- Conventional Wells Do Use Fracking: Acknowledges for the first time in law that conventional oil and gas wells do undergo hydraulic fracking and requires notice to DEP if fracking interferes with a well, active coal mine or has an adverse environmental public health or safety impact (page 23);
-- Area Of Review: Area of review concept to avoid inadvertent interference with nearby abandoned, orphaned or other wells (page 22);
-- Protecting Public Resources: Adds back in provisions protecting certain public resources (page 28);
-- Well Control Emergencies: Includes specific provisions relating to well control emergency response (page 38);
-- Well Plugging Grants: Expands the grants available under the Commonwealth Financing Authority well plugging program (page 43); and
-- Sunset Of Policies: Requires the sunset of existing policies after 3 years and a review of regulations and policies by PA Grade Crude [Oil] Development Council (page 75).
The meeting will be held in the Senate Majority Caucus Room starting at 10:00. Click Here to watch it live.
Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-787-3280 or sending email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-7105 or sending email to: email@example.com.
[Posted: September 20, 2019]
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